Race To The Bottom: One Month To Go

Lads and ladies, we’re now one month away from the end of the NHL’s 2013-14 regular season. While for many clubs that means fretting about playoff seedings and potential first-round match-ups, for the province of Alberta – and a few others – it means worrying about the NHL Draft and lottery positions.

There are five NHL clubs with a bonafide chance at the NHL’s bottom seed. Here’s a look at how they sit with a month to go, and most importantly, their individual chances at falling to dead-last (and getting a top pre-lottery selection).

BUFFALO SABRES

Presently: 30th overall.

Points: 46 (19-38-8)

Games Remaining: 17

Strength of Schedule: remaining opponents have 54.1 points percentage and 47.5 winning percentage

Projected Remaining Wins: 8.9; record would be around 28-46-8 for 64 points

Record Since Deadline: 1-3-0

Outlook: The Sabres have hit the skids a bit, winning at the deadline and since losing three straight. The team’s also got several outside distractions. That said, Ted Nolan’s got a good foundation for next year that may eventually include Aaron Ekblad or Sam Reinhart.

EDMONTON OILERS

Presently: 29th overall

Points: 54 (23-35-8)

Games Remaining: 16

Strength of Schedule: remaining opponents have 59.4 points percentage and 53.5 winning percentage

Projected Remaining Wins: 7.4; record would be around 30-44-8 for 68 points

Record Since Trade Deadline: 2-1-0

Outlook: The Oilers have a rough schedule from here on out: St. Louis, San Jose (twice), Anaheim (thrice), Colorado and Los Angeles. There’s a good chance they’ll under-perform under the expected wins model because the team will be getting thrashed and might just mentally quit. While they should be pretty bad down the stretch, I can’t see them bridging an 8-point gap with Buffalo. But when you look at the projected records, it may get really close.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Presently: 28th overall

Points: 55 (24-34-7)

Games Remaining: 17

Strength of Schedule: remaining opponents have 56.0 points percentage and 49.3 winning percentage

Projected Remaining Wins: 8.6; record would be around 32-43-7 for 69 points

Record Since Trade Deadline: 1-2-0

Outlook: Good news! The Panthers have Roberto Luongo! Bad news! The Panthers don’t have a heck of a lot of established stars. They have some good young talent, but it’s surrounded by all that much. They also have the second-toughest schedule of the bottom-five group.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Presently: 27th overall

Points: 59 (25-33-9)

Games Remaining: 15

Strength of Schedule: remaining opponents have 52.3 points percentage and 45.5 winning percentage

Projected Remaining Wins: 8.2; record would be around 33-40-9 for 75 points

Record Since Trade Deadline: 1-1-1

Outlook: The Isles have the easiest schedule of the bottom-five teams. They also have Kyle Okposo, who’s quite good. But they’re missing some stars, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this mess. They should, barring disaster, finish around Calgary in the standings.

CALGARY FLAMES

Points: 59 (26-33-7)

Games Remaining: 16

Strength of Schedule: remaining opponents have 53.9 points percentage and 47.5 winning percentage

Projected Remaining Wins: 8.4; record would be around 34-41-7 for 75 points

Record Since Trade Deadline: 3-2-0

Outlook: Calgary has the second-easiest schedule of this group, and has already earned regulation wins against two teams above them (Ottawa & Anaheim), suggesting a tendency to over-perform.

PROJECTED BOTTOM-FIVE

As of right now, the data suggests a bottom five with the same order we have now. Buffalo, Florida and the Oilers will converge on the bottom end, while it’s probably that Calgary and the Islanders pull away a bit.

Our pals at Sports Club Stats has the odds for each bottom five spot like this:

  • 30th: Buffalo (94%), Edmonton (4%), Florida (2%)
  • 29th: Edmonton (50%), Florida (32%), NY Islanders (7%), Calgary (6%), Buffalo (5%)
  • 28th: Florida (37%), Edmonton (29%), NY Islanders (18%), Calgary (14%), Nashville & Buffalo (1%)
  • 27th: NY Islanders (34%), Calgary (29%), Florida (19%), Edmonton (12%), Nashville (3%)
  • 26th: Calgary (35%), NY Islanders (29%), Nashville (10%), Florida (9%), Carolina (5%), Edmonton (4%)

SUM IT UP

Barring something unforeseen, like Calgary winning the draft lottery, the Calgary Flames will draft 5th or 6th in the 2014 NHL Draft. There exists a teeny, tiny chance that they can over-perform enough to move past Nashville or Carolina into 25th overall. But it’s not particularly likely given the gap between the teams and the games remaining.

    • redricardo

      Actually, the way it’s phrased is correct.

      As the article points out, we’re most likely to finish with the #5 draft spot. So, we’re drafting there as long as any of the 1-4 teams win the lottery. Most likely.

      Or, we could win the draft lottery, and draft #1. Not likely.

      Or, anyone above us could win, and we then move to #6. More likely than the second option, but the odds don’t favor it.

      So… We’re most likely drafting 5 or 6. Exactly as stated.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Interested in what everyone’s draft board look like…
    Mine is
    1. Ekblad
    2. Reinhart
    3. Dal Colle
    4. Bennett
    5. Virtanen

    Wondering what everyone thinks. I hope we can draft top 4. Great article tho.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’m not going to know mine for sure until someone less lazy than me (FN) does a profile of the top guys with their ES/PP splits and so on, but it’s currently:

      1/2. Reinhart/Ekblad
      3.Bennett
      4/5. Dal Colle/Draisaitl

      And honestly, I’m starting to think all five of these guys are roughly equivalent prospects.

    • T&A4Flames

      Ekblad or Reinhart and after that, I see more benefit from trading down with a team like, say, ANA and pick up another 1st (assuming the OTT pick falls into top 7-8). Then we take Virtanen and hopefully McKeown with the later pick.

      I just don’t see the other prospects in the top 5 out-weighing getting a different player rated top 10, a player needed like a RW, as well as a 2nd 1st rounder.

  • Lordmork

    So by my admittedly suspect math, there’s an 84% chance we finish 26-29 (although I think karma owes us a lottery win, we all know the odds of that), and a pretty good chance we then draft in that range.

    I’m happy with that. We talk about drafting elite talent, but if that requires the Flames to get as good at losing as some of the teams below us, then no thanks.

  • etianap

    Great work Ryan. Especially inserting the schedule ahead.

    I’d rather say that Flames will draft 4th.

    Buffalo is well established for bottom and Edmonton have tough schedule and they are 7 points behind us.

    There are three teams within 4 points for three places. The odds are that at least one of them could get ahead Calgary. NY Islanders most likely, but Florida finishing above bottom three is not something to dismiss.

    So, Flames finishing 27th and one of three bottom five wins the lottery or Flames finishing 28th and some other teams ahead winning the lottery has quite the same result: drafting 4th.

    Hoping that efforts for win and commitment from the organization for playing instead tanking will be something that the league will favor so the Flames to win the ‘lottery’.

    Reinhart seems gone. With Buffalo having Tyler Myers good D at 24 and drafting last year two defenders in Ristolainen and Zadorov I see them taking the most promising forward.

    The same with Ekblad and Edmonton. If Flames will not win the lottery, bye bye Ekblad.

    That let us Bennet, Dal Colle and Draisatl. I’ll be happy with any of them, but two things scare me: a team ahead of us winning the lottery and Calgary drafting 6th or Burke considering Draisatl to be too risky and darfting Ritchie.

    Virtanen I know is good, but I’ve heard so much about his (in)consistency and personality that I think that is far too risky for a top 4th or 5th draft pick. Burke said something when demoted Feaster about ‘hitting the home run’ when you draft as high. Hopefully the things will be at least as good as last year with Monahan.

  • Christian Roatis

    I’ll post my Final Rankings at seasons end and maybe a few mock drafts along with our regular prospect profiles and such for FN’s Draft Coverage. The intention is to go hard at this draft 🙂

  • Christian Roatis

    Virtanen does not get a sniff inside the Top 5, but could go 6-10 easily, which I guess sounds kind of weird but that’s the way I see it playing out. I personally don’t think Draisaitl should be inside the Top 5 although I know scouts that love him so you never know. Ritchie’s skating is a bit of a problem for me so I don’t take him Top 5 either. For me, it’s Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett, Dal Colle, Nylander without a doubt. I would however be willing to bet Burke would bypass the slight Swede Nylander for a Virtanen or Ritchie cause truculence if he had the chance.

  • MichaelD

    I’m hoping for the third pick at worst… if not Ekblad who will surely be gone at 3 then I’d like Bennett.

    If we’re picking 5th or 6th after this season frankly I’d be a bit bummed.

    Sadly (and I’m not proud of it) I’m one of those who are cheering for loses at this point.

  • Michael

    No one likes to see their club loose games, but year after year, this team mounts a late reason rally that costs it a draft position or two. If they could just end this season the way they started, we would be looking at a top five not a 6-7-8 selection.

    • supra steve

      Agree completely.

      A few extra losses last year, and the Flames would have had the chance to select Seth Jones. I’m not unhappy with Monahan, but Jones was at the very top of a lot of draft lists last summer. Seeing him slip to 4th really pained me at the time, knowing it could have been Feaster calling his name.

  • EducatedHockeyFan

    I’m not sure I buy the whole “Burke picking truculence over skill”. He’s the same guy who took Kadri 7th overall in 09. Smaller stature, highly skilled. So I think if Nylander is still sitting there when the Flames pick, and Willie has a good international showing, I think it’s entirely possible we see his name being called.

    Also, if a new GM, is hired, how much does that affect the draft? Burke has said he wants a draft specialist. This is, of course, all speculation but it’s fun to ponder!

    • supra steve

      No organization is going to let Calgary hire away a “draft specialist” before the draft is done. No Nylander, PLEASE, I’m sure Burke remembers his dad at least as well as I do.

    • Christian Roatis

      That because there’s wasn’t a readily available power prospect available like there is in Ritchie or Perlini or Virtanen. It’s a Burke fantasy land in the top 10.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I am very tired of seeing the same usual suspects bottom feeding at the draft. The Islanders, Panthers, Oilers are there so often, it’s hard to imagine a draft without one of them picking in the top 3. Perpetual failure should be penalized.

    How about after three years of being a top 5 contender in the lottery. Your team is removed from the lottery process all together, until the next draft.

    In other words, if you pick inside of the TOP 5 for 3 Seasons straight, you miss the Lottery in year 4. This would include the 30th place team, and they would default to picking #2.

    It might become an incentive for bottom feeders to actually compete and play spoiler for the entire regular season.

    • Greg

      I’m going to be really annoyed if Edmonton gets ANOTHER first overall pick 😉

      I’m growing on the idea of draft ranking based on points earned once you’re eliminated from the playoffs. Takes away this bizarre feeling of wanting your team to lose… It’s a lot more interesting to end the season trying to get every point possible.

      That might hinder the trade market more though… Who’s going to trade pending UFAs if you need them around to win games? Although maybe that just increases the asking prices which would also be good for rebuilding teams.

  • Truculence

    I love it how purists will denounce anyone who hopes that their team falters down the stretch for the chance at a high pick and then incessantly lament the fact that their team will not be picking top-4 or 5 or whatever the hell they deem will get them an elite prospect.

    Buckle up, boys, this team is picking sixth or seventh because Nashville and Carolina are gonna tank hard like last year, while the Flames play out the stretch winning more than they lose in the pursuit of imaginary playoff series.

    And the fact that they win these last few will have no impact on next year, bcuz they will blow again.

    At some point, this team is gonna have to burn out and hopefully pick top-3 if they ever want to be contenders again, as they simply don’t have the draft pedigree of the Detroits or Bostons of the world -Johnny G notwithstanding. (We only ended up with Monahan at 6 last year because of phenomenal elite depth in the draft. That won’t happen often.)

  • Tenbrucelees

    I hate this kind of shit. Look, you want your team to
    win every game. But your team is at present hopeless. Nevertheless you still celebrate the odd victory because that is THE POINT.
    Then you see where you end up in the draft.
    Jesus, it’s not rocket science.

    • Tenbrucelees

      Or Pittsburgh. Or Chicago.

      I do agree though, tanking is all well and good, but you’ve got to get value picks as well. Letang as a 3rd rounder, Keith as a 2nd.

      • BurningSensation

        I have to disagree.

        The reason Pittsburgh is an elite team has to do more with winning the Crosby lottery than anything else. They are something of a special case.

        Very good teams like LA, St Louis, Boston, Detroit, etc., manage to be very good teams without multiple top 3 picks.

        Very bad teams like Edmonton, Columbus, Fllorida, Buffalo, etc. remain very bad teams despite multiple high end picks.

        Tanking doesn’t guarantee future wins, but it does guarantee a deep and persistent agony in the present.

        • supra steve

          Re. LA and StL:Multiple top 3s, perhaps not. How about multiple top 5s though. Between 2005 and 2010 LA picked in the top 15 six times, with highest picks being #5 (B Schenn), #4 (T Hickey), #2 (Doughty). Same span StL had four top 15 picks with the highest being #1 (E Johnson), #4 (Pietrangelo).

          So far Calgary has exactly ZERO top 5 picks!

          Re. Pitt…Crosby was absolutely a huge lotto win for them, but without his support cast of #2 (Malkin), #1 (Fleury), #2 (Staal), he has no Stanley cup ring.

          Re. Buff…I only see 1 top 5 recently (Vanek @ #5 in 2003). Their draft position recently has not been a lot different then Calgary’s…top 15 pick several times in recent years.

  • T&A4Flames

    Personally I don’t get to excited about the draft until after the CHL playoffs. I believe that Poirier stock rose quite a bit because of playoffs. Then I go through all the reports and make my decision. With only one first round pick this year it is important to get it right and pick the best player available. After the first round we need to be adding some depth on the blueline.