The Red Wings are getting jobbed.
That was the case before the pandemic. It is the case in the midst of it. It will be in the foreseeable future, too, unless the Red Wings are purely lucky.
Why? Because the NHL Draft Lottery stinks.
The Red Wings’ future is being swayed by sheer chance rather than hockey’s version of justice.
The Red Wings still have an 18.5 percent chance of landing the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. It undoubtedly will be Quebec Major Junior Hockey League winger Alexis Lafreniere, a possible generational talent.
Lafreniere, who dominated at the World Junior Championship despite playing through injury, could go a long way in changing the course of the franchise.
There is a considerable drop off from Lafreniere to probable second- and third-overall selections, Canada’s Quinton Byfield and Germany’s Tim Stutzle, both forwards.
The NHL Draft Lottery is ridiculous. The Red Wings never remotely tanked. The Red Wings reached their current level as the worst team in the NHL organically after a quarter century of success.
If anything, the Red Wings took too long to begin their rebuild in earnest. Certainly, it drew the ire of their fanbase when former general manager Ken Holland extended contracts of veteran players and remained active in unrestricted free agency to the point of being nonsensical.
By the spirit of the lottery, the Red Wings played by the NHL’s rules - and yet could still get the shaft as the result of it.
Give NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who has long been maligned in this town, credit for moving the NHL toward a version of the Stanley Cup playoffs this summer.
However, his decision to leave the Red Wings stuck in the same lottery rut despite mitigating circumstances simply isn’t justified.
The Red Wings have a long and storied tradition, and yet there is a possibility there won’t be hockey in Detroit until the turn of the calendar year.
The immediate future of AHL is also in question, and it could stagnate the Red Wings’ player development process, which is pretty much everything for the franchise at this stage. It’s not like it will be advanced this summer with play.
If the NHL Draft Lottery doesn’t fall the Red Wings’ way, it will only pour more cold water on a Detroit hockey landscape already drenched.
The worst part: Lotteries don’t prevent franchises from tanking. It’s just as prevalent in the NHL and NBA, which have lotteries, as it is in the MLB and the NFL, which don’t.
Time to amend the NHL Draft Lottery to ensure, at minimum, the worst team much better odds for the first overall pick.
Better yet, just get rid of it.
The NHL Draft Lottery is a bad idea, and doesn’t work, which the Red Wings’ current plight provides as a classic example.