Cam Cole: Draft fear and loathing may spur NHL to play Oiler spoiler

 

Face it: No team has done less with more good fortune than Edmonton

 
 
 
 
Back in 2010, few begrudged the Edmonton Oilers when, after finishing 30th and last in the NHL standings, they picked Taylor Hall (right) first overall. But three Oiler No. 1 overall picks later came Connor McDavid (left), and that tune changed. Just imagine if the Oilers got to select Auston Matthews at the top of this summer’s draft. (Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images)
 

Back in 2010, few begrudged the Edmonton Oilers when, after finishing 30th and last in the NHL standings, they picked Taylor Hall (right) first overall. But three Oiler No. 1 overall picks later came Connor McDavid (left), and that tune changed. Just imagine if the Oilers got to select Auston Matthews at the top of this summer’s draft. (Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images)

Photograph by: Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images

More on This Story

 

VANCOUVER — The hockey faithful are, as a species, notoriously immune to such emotions as remorse and guilt when it comes to their heroes.

But surely even Edmonton Oilers fans cannot be without at least a faint feeling of embarrassment as National Hockey League general managers meet in Florida to debate, among other items, ways to possibly prevent the draft lottery’s luckiest team from winning it again.

“We deserve this,” the fans must be saying. “We’ve had four No. 1 picks in the last six years and what has this team done? Squat. No wonder the league is ticked.”

No, you’re right. They’re probably not saying that.

But face it: no team has had more good fortune, and done less with it, than the Oilers who, don’t forget, have also had the No. 3 (Leon Draisaitl) and No. 7 (Darnell Nurse) overall selections in their, um, off-years.

So why wouldn’t the GMs want to lock the Oilers’ barn door before another thoroughbred slips in and promptly disappears?

Not that Connor McDavid has disappeared. But give the Oil time: they could make it happen yet.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong told the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger that he’d be in favour of a five-year waiting period before a lucky lottery winner could pick first overall again.

“I think people are concerned that the wrong teams are being rewarded based on luck,” Armstrong said. “The theory is that if you finish last you always have a chance to win the lottery, so if you finish last three years in a row, you can win the lottery three years in a row. But if you didn’t finish last and win the lottery, you can’t do it again for another five years.

“I’d be moderately flexible on the number of years. But here’s my point … you can get lucky in winning the lottery once, but that’s it.”

Nashville GM David Poile said he’s “open for those type of discussions.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the league adopted an Oiler Rule.

In the mid-’80s, with Wayne Gretzky conducting the orchestra, the Oilers were so automatic at scoring 4-on-4 when there were offsetting penalties that NHL governors amended the rule to allow teams to substitute another player to keep it 5-on-5 for coincidental minors.

Eight years later, after Gretzky and the Oiler threat were both long gone, the rule was changed back.

If the Oilers were to draft fourth or fifth this June, some believe all the grumbling would go away and changes to the lottery would never be made. But there is much fear and loathing out there at the moment. Edmonton getting Auston Matthews would cause a league-wide embolism.

There’s a difference between winning the lottery and picking first, of course. This will be the 22nd draft lottery since it was instituted in 1995. In the previous 21 editions, 10 last-place teams got the No. 1 pick, but only seven times did that team win the lottery. (We’re counting Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby/post-lockout win in 2005 because the Pens had finished last in 2003-04, though Washington had won that season’s lottery and picked Alex Ovechkin No. 1.)

Few begrudged the Oilers the No. 1 pick in 2010 (Taylor Hall) because they finished 30th. When they selected No. 1 again in 2011 (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) despite being the second ball out of the jar because lottery winner New Jersey could only move up four spots, that was a little over the top, but only a little.

Then came the Nail Yakupov pick with the No. 1 in 2012 (the Oilers aced 30th-place Columbus in the lottery). It was about the worst No. 1 selection since the Islanders took goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And now, it was getting ridiculous.

And then, after “slumping” for two straight years (Colorado took Nathan MacKinnon, Florida took Aaron Ekblad; neither team had finished 30th), the Oilers lucked out again at the most fortuitous possible moment, winning the Connor McDavid lottery ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who have now lost two lotteries in a row from the 30th spot.

Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli admitted the idea of a restriction on how many times a team could be allowed to profit from sheer luck was likely to be discussed.

“It’s not an unreasonable thing in light of us winning the lottery last year. If we didn’t win the lottery last year but we were the fourth pick, would it have come up again? I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll have to talk about it in the next couple of days.”

The lottery rules have been tweaked as recently as the summer of 2014, with changes phased in over two years to give more teams better odds and try to discourage tanking.

This year, the first three picks are decided by separate lotteries, so the 30th-place team could pick as low as fourth if it doesn’t win any of them.

Only this is certain: if the latest Oiler Rule isn’t adopted, the paranoia level will be off the charts until those three balls have been drawn and Edmonton’s isn’t one of them.

ccole@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Back in 2010, few begrudged the Edmonton Oilers when, after finishing 30th and last in the NHL standings, they picked Taylor Hall (right) first overall. But three Oiler No. 1 overall picks later came Connor McDavid (left), and that tune changed. Just imagine if the Oilers got to select Auston Matthews at the top of this summer’s draft. (Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images)
 

Back in 2010, few begrudged the Edmonton Oilers when, after finishing 30th and last in the NHL standings, they picked Taylor Hall (right) first overall. But three Oiler No. 1 overall picks later came Connor McDavid (left), and that tune changed. Just imagine if the Oilers got to select Auston Matthews at the top of this summer’s draft. (Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images)

Photograph by: Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice