The Case for Tanking the Qualifying Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Folks, the NHL Draft Lottery was last night and it’s safe to say that many fans (particularly fans of teams like the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings) are absolutely livid with the results of the draft lottery that have a potential playoff team getting the number 1 overall pick. When you consider that the number one pick this year will be Alexis Lafreniere, who had a cool 112 points in just 52 games played this year in Juniors, could be going to a playoff team like Toronto or Pittsburgh, it’s hard to blame them. Here are the results of the lottery:

What exactly does this mean? This means that any team who loses the play in round of the playoffs will have a 12.5% chance to get the first overall pick. So in theory, one of the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, or Winnipeg Jets can get the number 1 pick.

As I said earlier, could you imagine Alexis Lafreniere on the Penguins or Maple Leafs? What if the Oilers have a down series and they end up having the potential to roll out a Lafreniere-McDavid-Draisaitl line? It would be a league changing move if one of those teams was able to land such a dynamic playmaker.

Now I won’t advocate for a team like Pittsburgh, Toronto, or Edmonton to tank because they could legitimately get hot and win the Stanley Cup this year. However, I absolutely will advocate for a team like Montreal, Florida, Minnesota, Chicago or Columbus to tank the first round since I don’t think that any of those teams have a snowball’s chance in hell to win the Cup. I’d argue that their chances of winning the Cup are lower than their 12.5% chance that they have to get the first overall pick and win the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes. In fact, Hockey Reference’s playoff simulator verifies that.

Hockey is a weird sport in which there is a ton of parity. Last year’s playoffs showed us that literally anything can happen. That being said, a play-in team isn’t going to win the Cup this year. It’s just not happening. The blunt fact of the matter is that they’d have a better chance of winning the Cup in future years if they had a guy like Lafreniere on their team.

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