NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly doesn't think teams are intentionally losing in bid to draft McDavid, Eichel
Bill Daly, shown here at the 2013 draft lottery, says the NHL has changed the lottery rules to reduce the perception that teams can tank the season to secure a top draft pick. (File Photo)
Tank Wars? What Tank Wars?
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly understands how picking first pick overall in the 2015 draft might be the best thing to happen to a franchise since Sidney Crosby went to Pittsburgh, but he doesn’t believe stretch diving is a cause for concern this season.
Mostly because he doesn’t believe it’s happening.
While conspiracy theorists will argue that teams like Edmonton, Buffalo and Arizona are flirting with the wrong side of this moral grey area — making moves that seem to increase their chances of finishing last — Daly and the NHL believe it only seems that way because of the stakes.
“There has been a higher focus this year than I’ve ever seen,” said Daly, in Edmonton Thursday for the Mac&Cheese Inner City Awareness Week Luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre.
“Having said that, I don’t think it’s an over-riding concern for the league. I don’t think any of the teams are actively tanking, and we have new rules that address the situation.”
The NHL changed the draft lottery odds — twice — to lower the chances of the 30th-place team picking first (20% this year), which suggests they do think it’s an issue, but Daly says it’s more about perception than reality.
“Quite frankly the odds of the lowest finishers have been reduced dramatically to win the top pick, and beginning next year you could finish last and still pick fourth,” he said.
“We’ve taken steps to address the perception. I don’t have any concern about the integrity of the competition as it’s playing out.”
Others would point to recent transactions and suggest some teams believe trying to finish last — thus guaranteeing either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel — is still worth the risk.
In addition to essentially stand pat on bad hands, the Coyotes traded away their best goalie, Hart Trophy candidate Devan Dubnyk, for a draft pick; the Oilers moved David Perron, who scored 28 goals for them last year, for Rob Klinkhammer and a draft pick; Buffalo sent Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford to Winnipeg for a package based around Evander Kane, who was already out for the season.
Hockey moves? Or draft moves?
“Teams go through different cycles in their development,” said Daly, adding the whole purpose of the draft is for struggling teams to access better talent. “Some of the clubs who are performing poorly on the ice this year are in a certain stage of their development.
“I’ve seen no evidence (of tanking). Players want to win every night, coaches want to win every night. Managers may have conflicting feelings but at the end of the day I think everyone wants to win our games.”
The Oilers, sitting at 28th in the standings, could very well win the draft lottery for the fourth time in the last six years. That rubs some people around the NHL the wrong way, but Daly has no issue with that, either. Neither, it seems, do the rest of the general managers.
“From my perspective it’s part of the process, it speaks to where they’ve been in the league,” he said.
“There has been talk at our manager level over time as to whether we come up with parameters where clubs can’t pick at the top of the draft so often, but I don’t think it’s ever gotten any traction.”
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