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In past 6 years, Coyotes have not benefited from NHL Draft Lottery

(Matt Layman/ArizonaSports.com)

The NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday produced a familiar result for the Coyotes. They didn’t benefit from it. It hurt them.

Arizona finished with the third-worst record in the NHL this season but will pick No. 5 at the NHL Draft from June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

In the six seasons since they last made the playoffs, the Coyotes have never risen a spot in the NHL Draft Lottery. They have either held the draft position that corresponded to their league finish (*three times) or fallen from that position (three times), including three of the past four seasons.

De-incentivizing tanking is an important aspect of the lottery system, and one that should remain, but a system that doesn’t properly compensate the worst teams in the league is a system that requires tweaking.

Some have suggested the NHL adopt the so-called Gold Plan, first presented by Adam Gold at the Sloan Analytics conference in 2012 and championed by former Coyotes captain Shane Doan.

Under that system, draft order would be based on the number of points each team earned after being eliminated from the playoffs. The team that earns the most points after elimination gets the top pick, and so on through the rest of the non-playoff field.

That system has many merits, but it also has its flaws, some of which hockey media must-follow Sean McIndoe outlines in this piece. It should be noted that McIndoe is clearly a proponent of the Gold Plan and his support taints his discussion of its flaws.

The piece also omits other flaws such as potential disparities in the playoff cut-off line in the Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference.

There’s also this to consider: If the worst team in the league still fails to accumulate enough points to win the lottery despite the advantage of playing more games after it is eliminated from playoff contention, the overriding purpose of the NHL Draft is to help make that team better, not punish it for prior incompetence.

Again, tanking must always factor into the league’s lottery approach, but if a team truly is that bad, why punish it further?

A reader also noted that since the Coyotes finished with the third-worst record in the NHL this season, the odds of their landing that pick should have been highest among their six options.

It’s a fair point to consider.

Instead of that probability, landing the No. 3 pick was the least likely of the Coyotes’ six options.

The Coyotes had a 37.7-percent chance of picking fifth; a 15.2-percent chance of picking sixth; a 13.2-percent chance of picking fourth; an 11.5-percent chance of picking first; an 11.3-percent chance of picking second; and an 11.1-percent chance of picking third.

That means the chances overwhelmingly favored the Coyotes dropping from the draft position that corresponded to their league finish. They had a 66.1 percent chance of dropping.

Does that make sense to you?

Coyotes general manager John Chayka wasn’t about to criticize the current system when he said Saturday, “you could always tweak it and there are always different methods and different philosophies but they all have pros and cons.”

Chayka is correct in noting that no system will be perfect, but the current one is too far from perfection to resist further discussion and more tweaking.

Here is a look at the Coyotes’ performance in the past six seasons of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Year                  Finish               Draft position

2013               12th worst                 No. 12

2014               13th worst                 No. 12*

2015               2nd worst                  No. 3

2016               7th worst                   No. 7

2017               3rd worst                   No. 7 (traded)

2018               3rd worst                   No. 5

— The Coyotes only moved up one spot because the New Jersey Devils (11th worst record) were penalized for signing forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a salary-cap circumventing contract. The NHL dropped the Devils to the last pick of the first round.

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