Lottery Tournament For Number-One Pick Could Benefit New Jersey Devils

P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

There’s rumors teams are floating a tournament with the worst teams in the league in an effort to win the number-one overall pick in the NHL Draft. The way the New Jersey Devils were playing, this could really benefit them.

One of the reasons the NHL’s pause due to the Coronavirus pandemic was so heartbreaking for New Jersey Devils fans was they were winning more games than they had all season. Mackenzie Blackwood was playing like a top-ten goalie, they were getting scoring from different lines and the defense wasn’t playing like a total mess. It was nice after the season fans had to go through.

In an instant, it was all over.

Now, it looks like the most logical options would have the Devils outside of any formal playoff format, and as much as the NHL would like to play the rest of the regular season, with this sickness likely leading in closures through June, we don’t see that as possible. The Devils are currently the 26th teams in the league standings, and even the most conservative playoff formats only go out to 24 teams (likely to get the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens in).

With the Devils on the outside looking in, there’s not a lot they could be playing for if the regular season were to end. That is. until a new proposal came to light. The Athletic’s Craig Custance reports at least one NHL team proposed the idea that the remaining teams could play in a tournament, with the winner getting the number-one overall pick.

Many might say that would just give a good team the number-one pick, but if you combine that with a 24-team playoff format, then we’re talking about the seven worst teams fighting it out. Plus, in one of the last games for the Detroit Red Wings, they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Anyone can truly win on any night in this league, even if it’s not always likely.

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This format would absolutely benefit the Devils. Of all the teams who fit in that format, the Devils were hotter than every team besides one. The Los Angeles Kings were 8-1-1 in their last ten games before the break.

The awkwardness of the number of teams would have to be worked out. Maybe there’s a round robin, double elimination first round until there’s four teams left. There’s the other awkward issue that the San Jose Sharks don’t own their first-round pick, so that would have to be worked out.

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With Blackwood playing as good as any goalie in the league, that gives the Devils an advantage, especially against the league’s worst. In the month of February, he allowed nine goals total. He ended the month with a .967 save percentage, and will likely end his season with a respectable .915 save percentage.

Their record at home and away is relatively similar, meaning if this tournament had to be played in an empty arena in middle America, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Of all the teams in the bottom seven, the Devils are the only team with more road wins than they have home wins. Both the Buffalo Sabres (20-11-4) and the Los Angeles Kings (19-13-2) rely on their home-ice play to get themselves any points.

This tournament would be fun, and Devils fans need fun right now. This season was awful, and this pandemic is even worse. Even the people who aren’t sick or aren’t losing their job are either looking over their shoulder, or going stir crazy in their house. We need fun more than ever, and beyond that we need something to look forward to. A fight for Alexis Lafreniere would give us life. The fact that Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes aren’t in the tourney give us even more life.