The practice of tanking has been a major focus in all sports, but maybe none more so than hockey. With generational talents like Connor McDavid and sure fire stars such as Auston Matthews knocking on the door, teams who are legitimately terrible seem to have ownership find ways to enhance their awful play to get a shot at these guys, or so people think. Heck, people still talk about whether the Penguins tanked in 1984 to get Mario Lemieux (and if you talk to the New Jersey Devils, they’ll tell you the Penguins stole him.)
Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes has an interesting way to either solve this problem, or take away any incentive to tank or any perception that there is tanking.
“The day you’re mathematically eliminated, you start accumulating points,” Doan said. “When you get to the end of the year, whoever’s accumulated the most points gets the first overall pick.”
It’s really so simple it’s brilliant. And it pretty much works the same way as the draft lottery, where you can only move up or down a certain number of slots. Think about it, there’s no way a team eliminated on the last day is going to get the number one pick over a team that’s been eliminated for a month. So teams will only move up and down so far anyway. There would be no need to make a draft order through ping pong balls. There’s incentive to win every game, even down to the team that has been eliminated in Game 81 to get the two points to climb one pick. If nothing else, it will cut down on the games that fans pay good money for at the end of the season to see minor league lineups and passionless play.
Here’s the one thing I wonder: Would this drastically change the way a team, say … the Buffalo Sabres … would approach the trade deadline? Let’s say next year the Sabres are having another dog year, but Matt Moulson is having a dynamite season. Do they keep him to keep competitive enough in the post-elimination part of the season? Or would they trade him for future assets, and hope that the team will still be good enough to beat out other struggling teams to get that number one pick? (Don’t be mad at me, Buffalo … I only use you as an example.) This could lessen the significance and the assignment of trade deadline day by cutting down on the big names that could move. But it could also mean that trades that are made are purely hockey trades and not “dump” trades.
It’s hard to say how this would go, but one thing for sure is that something like this would align the objective of the team on the ice with the objective of the front office, and make things a lot less awkward. And it’s that kind of out of the box thinking that should earn Doan a job in the league office when he hangs ’em up.