The NHL has yet to decide when and if it will continue the regular season and eventually the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The league’s continuous uncertainty and lack of planning have now led to the debate of whether to hold the draft prior to the completion of the regular and postseason.
There are many topics to iron out for the NHL to go through with this decision and many consequences of their decision.
So, to draft or not to draft before the playoffs, that is the question.
Against the Draft
The arguments against holding the draft before the completion of the regular season and playoffs is simple. It comes down to finding a fair system that works for all the teams. As the current draft proposal stands, instead of a lottery awarding the first three picks, only one team would be drawn for the first overall pick. Additionally, no team can move up more than four picks. So, the Detroit Red Wings are the real winners here since they cannot fall below the second pick. So, for the teams that were downright terrible this year, whether to do tanking or not tanking, would be helped with this system. Understandably, this would make many teams upset because the new system gives them at least a shot at a top-three pick and a difference-making prospect.
Besides being unfair to teams outside of Detroit and rewarding them for putting out a dreadful product, there is the issue of conditional picks. Teams will have traded away draft picks tied with conditions such as games played or reaching a certain level of the playoffs escalating those picks. Not really a fair way to compensate the team who received the draft pick nor is it fair to punish the team surrendering the pick. The league would truly have to perform some acrobatics to make this work for the teams affected by the draft change.
For the Draft
The arguments for having the draft are simple. First, this comes down to money. The NHL has seen the success the WNBA and NFL had with their virtual draft. It brought lots of attention to their respective leagues and put them in the spotlight for multiple days. Gary Bettman and the owners know they have an image and marketing problem because they are bad at business. Anything sports-related televised supplies entertainment right now will be a hit and generate attention for the league. The NHL needs positive publicity and marketing right now to help offset the negative effects of the pandemic, a virtual draft is a perfect solution.
The second argument is similar to the first. Fans want sports in any role and the NHL draft would provide that. It is not a hockey game, but it would help satisfy the need for hockey fans have had since the shutdown. Again, the WNBA and NFL drew record numbers with their drafts, and given the TV deal with NBC, the NHL can do the same. One could argue it is a necessity for the league to do this because their bits of players picking different names for themselves is not cutting it.
Dallas Stars’ Impact
As of this writing, Dallas would hold the 22nd pick in the 2020 draft, a position that they would be unlikely to move from. Dallas would not be taking part in the lottery, so the time of the draft is irrelevant. However, for some other teams, such as the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, this very much matters.
The draft prior to the playoffs could HELP the Dallas Stars. Based on the mock draft posted on NHL.com, Chicago and Minnesota would be drafting at the nine and eleven, respectively. While the odds are in favor of these two teams not moving their draft position, imagine a world where they won the lottery. If either team were to find themselves picking in the top three spots, that would be a major boon to their rebuild efforts and would make the Central division even tougher than currently constructed.
However, if the NHL holds the draft prior to the completion of the regular season, that potential world would not happen. Chicago and Minnesota would only be able to move up four spots from their current position. As with everything, prospects are by no means a sure thing so it is possible to even with a top-three pick both teams could whiff. But by limiting their positions further, Dallas could certainly benefit from this system. The Central is already the toughest division in hockey so two teams not picking a potential franchise player can make a significant difference.
The draft is going to happen, whether fans agree with it or not before the completion of the regular season and playoffs, barring any new developments. The NHL owners and Commissioner Bettman feel some financial pressure given the only way they know how to make money paused due to the pandemic.
While opponents of the virtual draft will be displeased in the short term, this could be a long-term win for hockey fans.
If the draft ends up being a success, it is possible we will see the NHL draft televised every year, as it should, bringing more hockey during the long arduous off-season.
Featured Image: Paul Chiasson/CP