The NHL Draft Lottery
I am not really sure how either the NHL or NBA came to the conclusion that a draft lottery was the fairest way of going about awarding the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to a team.
Sure, it arguably has some sort of deterrent effect on teams tanking the season in order to gain the top pick. But honestly, any team that has any integrity at all would not engage in such tactics anyway.
The NBA Draft Lottery came into being in 1985 after the Houston Rockets were suspected of tanking the season in order to get the top pick. Almost a decade later, the NHL followed suit after the Ottawa Senators were suspected of doing the same thing so they could gain the top pick in the 1993 draft.
Notably absent from resorting to any sort of lottery system is the NFL, the annual draft of which is one of the most anticipated events of the NFL offseason.
If you compare the NHL lottery to the NBA lottery though, it makes your head spin and one has to ask the simple question: Why?
With the NBA lottery's weighted system, in its current format, the worst team has a 25 percent chance of getting the top pick.
With the NHL's current weighted system, the worst team still has just over a 48 percent chance of retaining the top pick.
How exactly a team is deterred from tanking a season when it knows it still has almost a 50-50 chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick is something that makes sense to only the powers that be who run the NHL.
Rule 48 is a prime example of how sometimes an idea with good intentions, when put into effect, can meet up with pretty crummy results.
In the summer of 2011, after open ice hits to David Booth and Marc Savard left both players with concussions—not to mention that a persistent concussion was sidelining the face of the NHL, Sidney Crosby, for an indefinite period of time—the NHL modified Rule 48 (NHL.com).
As modified, Rule 48 now reads as follows:
A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.
In theory it sounds good and it makes sense.
Its actual application, however, has been less than optimal and has led to a lot of confusion.
Hits to the head are being looked at more as to the offending player's intent as opposed to the actual outcome of the hit.
Obviously, the problem here is how does one know what another player was intending? Certainly, there are some circumstances where the intent is obvious.
But for the borderline events, unless the NHL has been utilizing mind-readers, how does one really know what someone's intent was?
If the real intent is to do away with these devastating sorts of injuries, then wouldn't the implementation of rules like the NFL's aggressive approach to head-shots and defenseless players make more sense?
The Divisional Format
It was during the 1998-1999 NHL season that the current playoff seeding format was implemented.
Is it one of the worst decisions ever made by the NHL? No.
But it is clearly not one of it's better ones either and it is riddled with inconsistency.
Under the current format, the three divisional winners in each conference get the top three seeds for the playoffs. After the first round of the playoffs, teams could then be re-seeded and this could create more confusion.
The problem with this is that a weak divisional winner could get a top three seed even if the No. 4 or even No. 5 seed had a better record. On occasion, that divisional winner would get ousted in the first round by a No. 6 seed, who would then go on to play the No. 1 seed and re-seeding would then take place.
It is very similar to the situation we saw in the NFL two years ago when the 7-9 Seahawks won the NFC West and got to host the Wild Card game against the 11-5 New Orleans Saints. Sports fans everywhere know how that game turned out.
This past season, we saw the Florida Panthers get the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and they got to host the No. 6 seeded New Jersey Devils—even though the Devils finished eight points better than the Panthers in the regular season. Not surprisingly, the Devils won in seven games.
In the 2008 playoffs, we saw something similar when the Washington Capitals claimed the No. 3 seed and took on the No. 6 seeded Philadelphia Flyers, who finished one point better than the Caps. Again, the Flyers prevailed in seven games.
It is not a huge problem, but even the NHL knows there is an issue there.
At the beginning of the year, the NHL proposed a change to a four-conference format, with each conference having eight teams (tsn.ca). The top four teams from each conference would qualify for the playoffs and they would then play each other within the conference, with the top seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 and No. 3 seed playing each other. The ultimate conference champions would then meet in the third round and the winners would then vie for the Stanley Cup.
It certainly makes sense and is a lot more fair and balanced than the current system which can lead to some very odd scenarios.