Here’s an easy way for the NHL to make even more money: hold a post-season tournament for all non-playoff teams to determine the Stanley Cup of Hope.
The inspiration for the idea comes from the Kontinental League, which started the Nadezhda Cup (a.k.a. Cup of Hope) last season for teams that missed the playoffs. The, er, “winner” takes home around $600,000 and gets a top pick in the KHL draft.
It’s an out-there idea, for sure, and I’m not necessarily endorsing it, but let’s indulge it for a moment.
Florida won the draft lottery last night, meaning the Panthers get the first crack at an interesting field with a lot of variation in it. A lot goes into a draft list and the final results are always thrown into chaos by trades and reaches. As the draft gets closer and teams decide who they like the most, I’ll get a more accurate picture of how things might shake down. But for now, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at what could happen come draft day in Philadelphia, based on the teams’ current situation.
1. Florida – Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts, D
Yeah, yeah, defensemen never go first overall anymore (Erik Johnson was the last in 2006), but the Cats are loaded up front with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau. Their best ‘D’ prospects are still in college, whereas Ekblad can step in right away and play a top-four role.
Turnabout is fair play for the Florida Panthers. At last year’s draft lottery, the second-to-last Colorado Avalanche leap-frogged the Panthers to win first overall pick. This year, it was the Panthers who did the leap-frogging.
Florida moved up one spot in the draft and won the right to select first overall in the 2014 NHL draft June 27 in Philadelphia. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, held Tuesday night in Toronto. The last-place Buffalo Sabres had the best chance of winning – 25 percent – but will slip to the second overall spot.
The remainder of the top 13 picks follow in reverse order of NHL standings. Edmonton picks third followed by Calgary fourth and the New York Islanders fifth. Vancouver is sixth, Carolina seventh, Toronto eighth, Winnipeg ninth, Anaheim (from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) 10th, Nashville 11th, Phoenix 12th and Washington 13th. The New Jersey Devils slip to the 30th spot as league penalty for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap.
Winning the lottery is nice for the Panthers, but it doesn’t mean as much in a draft that is considered very equal among the top three, four, even five prospects according to most scouts. Florida is weakest on the blueline and will surely be tempted to select Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad first overall.
Canadian teams will be well-represented in Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery.
Hey, we have to find something nice to say as the Montreal Canadiens are the only team north of the border to make the playoffs. The other six Canadian cities are among the top 10 teams vying to win the lottery and earn the right to select first overall.
Below you’ll see a listing for the 14 non-playoff teams and their chances to select first overall in the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. Most interesting is the likely outcome column which shows the varying percentage chances your favorite team will place.
With their 3-0 win over the suddenly slumping St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars are returning to the post-season, having eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes. It’ll be the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 when ‘Big D’ made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
The 16 playoff teams are now set. All that’s to be decided now is positioning.
For the Stars, they could get any one of the Ducks, Avalanche or Blues in Round 1. They’re 2-1 against Anaheim, 1-3-1 versus Colorado and now 3-1-1 when facing St. Louis. Couple their success in Missouri with the Blues’ five-game losing streak, and the Stars might be hoping for first-round series against the Notes.
Every year, in all sports, when you scan through the end-of-season statistics you raise an eyebrow more than once. Some players have no business getting that kind of number in that particular category and there’s no way it will happen again.
Here are the biggest “one-offs” that jump out at me in the NHL this year.
10. Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
19.6 shooting percentage
Nyquist has been a man on a mission since January, actually leading the NHL in goals. Nyquist will be a star in the NHL sooner rather than later, but his forte is setting up goals more than scoring them. His high shot percentage reflects that.
9. Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
19.1 shooting percentage
Filppula’s career high heading into this year was 23 goals. He has 25 on just 131 shots. On a high-scoring team such as the Lightning, he could flirt with 60 points again, but don’t look for such production in the goals department. Overall, expect a decline in his numbers in 2014-15 as some of the talented Tampa prospects take on bigger roles.
The Edmonton Oilers’ playoffs hopes may have been extinguished long ago, but their future still burns bright thanks to a boatload of skilled young forwards on the roster.
And while talent up front doesn’t always translate to wins, it certainly allows for some sick individual displays of skill.
Displays like the one Sam Gagner put on with his shootout winner last night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Coyotes’ Thomas Greiss just can’t keep up with that many dekes.
The unsuspecting, the team that came out of nowhere, the underdog. Sports fans have witnessed miraculous runs by underdogs on so many occasions. A prime example is the NCAA March Madness, where brackets are busted (oh hey there Dayton) and game-winning three balls that you can only dream of come to fruition. The NHL is no different with its underdog stories.
Just two seasons ago, the Los Angeles Kings looked like a team that was in line to miss the playoffs, but a coaching switch and the acquisition of Jeff Carter helped them squeak into the postseason as the No.8 seed. The team got hot and rode the goaltending of Jonathan Quick to the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history.