he 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing, but a few weeks ago 14 teams were focused on something completely different: the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. Two Saturdays ago, 14 teams were placed in a lottery to decide who would win the top prize: the prospect of a generation, Connor McDavid. The winner — perhaps unsurprisingly — was the Edmonton Oilers, who have won four of the past six draft lotteries.
Many people were upset that Edmonton won the lottery. The Oilers won three straight draft lotteries from 2010 to 2012, but none of these three top picks have helped the Oilers dig their way out of the cellar of the Western Conference. They took Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov respectively in these three drafts. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have performed commendably while Yakupov has been disappointing, but none of them have been the franchise-changing player that other previous number-one picks have been. Many have complained that the Oilers should not be able to receive so many number one picks in such a short period of time, and others have lamented that McDavid’s career will be ruined in Edmonton.
On the other hand, one could say that the Oilers’ winning the draft lottery was good karma. They were one of the few teams that did not blatantly tank to try to land the top pick. The Oilers had the third-best chance to win the lottery. There were two teams with better odds: the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes. Both the Sabres and Coyotes explicitly tanked to land the worst two spots. At the trade deadline, both teams traded most of their top players in order to lose more games. The Oilers did not do this; in fact, they played hard until their final game. On the third-to-last game of the season, they defeated the Los Angeles Kings, effectively eliminating the Kings from the playoffs.
So, which group is right: the one that criticized the Oilers for not capitalizing on their number one picks, or the group that claims the Oilers have good karma for not blatantly tanking for a better pick? Personally, I think that the Oilers should be rewarded for not giving up during the season. Yes, they have failed to succeed with their three current number one picks, but these players are not the same caliber as McDavid.
Touted as the next Sidney Crosby type-player, McDavid could be the franchise player to bring Edmonton back to its former greatness. Additionally, it is not necessarily the Oilers’ fault that their top players have not developed to their potential. They picked the best player available in each draft; they could not control the fact that the drafts in which they had the number one pick did not contain a franchise-changing talent.
Now, the Oilers’ draft lottery luck has occurred in one of the best draft classes in ages. McDavid can perhaps instantly turn the Oilers into contenders again. No more excuses. It is time for Edmonton to produce once and for all, or they will continue to be infamously known as the place where number one picks go to die.