Well it happened.
With two games remaining in the Leafs' NHL season, those following the draft lottery positioning more so than the playoff push realized it was possible for the Leafs to fall back into a lottery position.
All that was required was for the Leafs to lose their remaining games in regulation, and hope to get some help from our friends in L.A. and Phoenix.
In Leaf game #81, the Leafs lost in regulation, holding steady at 79 points. Phoenix picked up a win in their 81st game, putting them at 77 points, where Los Angeles also sat with one game remaining.
Both the 'Yotes and Kings have more wins than the Maple Leafs, so if all three were to finish with 79 points, the Leafs would sit behind them both in the standings, putting them in 26th overall, and thus holding the fifth last spot, giving them a slim (8.1% chance) at winning the draft lottery and moving into the first overall pick.
Before the Leafs took to the ice to face Ottawa on Saturday night, the seemingly impossible had happened, and the slumping Kings recorded a 4-3 victory over the Presidents' Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. This tentatively putting the Kings above the Leafs in the standings.
So all that was required was for the Leafs to lose in regulation and they would sit in 6th last, with the possibly of moving into fifth last if Phoenix recorded a win against Anaheim. Guess what?
Phoenix did win (in a wild game that ended up going to shootouts). Only one problem, the Leafs didn't lose.
The help received in the Western Conference was all for nothing, as the Leafs failed to lose and thus picked up points keeping them ahead of L.A. and Phoenix and sitting in 7th worst position.
While I am not in favour of tanking games for a number of reasons, I found myself, for likely the first and last time ever, cheering for Ottawa to win against my Maple Leafs.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see the Leafs play with pride and passion, I'm happy Deveraux recorded a hat trick which will strengthen the odds of him getting a new contract, it's good to see guys like Stepniak, Hagman and Gerber end the season strong... it's just, why couldn't they have lost?
While they still hold a 4.7 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and moving from seventh to third pick, a loss tonight would have moved them from seventh to fifth pick.
To provide some context, making the move from seventh to fifth last June to draft Luke Schenn cost the Leafs a second and third round pick. So it would have been like saving a second and third round pick, if the Leafs had been able to get into fifth.
Not to mention, of course, the small possibility of winning the draft lottery and moving the maximum four spots up into the first overall pick.
While life is filled with "What if" scenarios, this is one that may sting for many Leaf fans; especially if the fifth place team ends up winning the draft lottery.
Sorry for the rant...congratulations on the win Leafs.
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