Around this time of year, it’s time to talk about harsh truths.
The 2015-16 Calgary Flames are not going to make the playoffs. In 8.5 losses (and/or Colorado Avalanche wins), the Flames will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Around here, we’ve been shining a bright light on the end-of-season race to the bottom of the standings because it’s cheeky fun and it gives us all something to pay attention to.
Gang, we’ve looked into the draft lottery odds this season and have something to share: the Flames may have picked a really bad season to be this bad.
To illustrate how wonky this year’s draft lottery odds are, depending on where a team finishes, I built a handy table. Where a team finishes overall is on the left axis, while their odds of drafting at a particular position is across the top.
(Full credit to Enoch Root at the CalgaryPuck forums for doing all of the math!)
As you can see, there are diminishing returns to finishing lower in the standings after a certain point, and the bottom three teams really see their odds suffer in the re-draws.
Here’s the weighed likely pick for each finishing position:
- 30th: 2.90 (1st in inverse standings), most likely to draft 4th
- 29th: 3.46 (2nd in inverse standings), most likely to draft 4th
- 28th: 3.97 (3rd in inverse standings), most likely to draft 5th
- 27th: 4.58 (4th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 6th
- 26th: 5.19 (5th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 6th
- 25th: 5.87 (6th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 7th
- 24th: 6.62 (7th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 8th
- 23rd: 7.35 (8th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 8th
- 22nd: 8.23 (9th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 9th
- 21st: 9.35 (10th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 10th
- 20th: 10.29 (11th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 11th
- 19th: 11.27 (12th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 12th
- 18th: 12.30 (13th in inverse standings),
most likely to draft 13th
- 17th: 13.60 (14th in inverse standings), most likely to draft 14th
As you can see, the difference between a team’s placement in the inverse standings and their weighed likely pick gets pretty nuts near the end. If you finish in the bottom five of the standings, you will be punished by between 1.9 spots (at 30th overall) to about a fifth of a spot (at 26th overall). From then on? You’re more likely to improve your draft position than anything else.
Looking at the spot-by-spot percentages, here’s how things break down:
- Finish 17th to 23rd overall, most likely scenario is keeping “original” pick.
- Finish 24th to 30th overall, most likely scenario is getting a lesser pick than the “original” pick.
The general idea of changing the draft lottery rules and odds was to take away the incentives for teams to tank. (Thanks, Edmonton!) And to be honest, the changing odds definitely have changed things in that respect.
But for a hockey club in the last 15-or-so games of their season, toiling down in the bottom chunk of the overall standings, rather than throw youngsters and also-rans onto the ice more often, the awful draft odds push coaches to play their big guns more often to avoid falling into the abyss.
I mean, if finishing dead-last has the most likely outcome of having a team draft 4th overall, why shouldn’t they just play well for the last month rather than phoning it in?