Sunday, May 1, 2016

Buffalo fans in draft-mode can finish with NHL Draft Lottery tonight

Reprinted with permission from

Yeah, you can count me amongst the many Buffalo sports fans who’d much rather be watching their Sabres play in the second round of the playoffs. For those too young to remember, it did happen some nine years ago when the Buffalo Sabres appeared in their second of back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals.

Alas, it’s been a rough stretch since then and when you add in that the Buffalo Bills haven’t even made the playoffs since 1999 (R.I.P., Prince), these past nine years have been a complete downer.
Hope springs eternal in Buffalo, however, especially at the draft and even moreso with the NHL and the draft lottery. Having missed the playoffs once again the Sabres are slotted in at No. 8 for the upcoming entry draft in Buffalo but tonight at 8 P.M. they have a chance at landing in the top three due to the new lottery rules installed by the league two years ago.
In an effort to curb tanking amongst rebuilding clubs the first three picks in the draft will chosen via the lottery with Buffalo having a 6% or slightly better chance of landing in the top-three. Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News wrote of Buffalo’s odds, “The Sabres have a 19.2 percent chance of moving into the top three. They have a 39.2 percent chance of remaining eighth, a 34.8 percent chance of falling to ninth and a 6.6 percent chance of dropping to 10th. The furthest Buffalo can fall is 11th, but there’s only a 0.3 percent chance of that happening.

There are a number of ways one can look at tonight’s draft. After finishing in last place two consecutive seasons and losing the lottery, maybe Lady Luck will smile upon Buffalo and the Sabres will have the lucky combination. Or deuces will be wild and the Sabres will land their third consecutive 2nd overall pick (my personal favorite.) The third-overall pick would be a helluva consolation prize as well.
Yet, the most likely scenario is that the Sabres stay where they are or drop down a notch meaning that they'll be in a good spot to land one of the top defensemen in the draft.
For the heck of it, here's the result of one spin of the NHL draft simulator at
(Don’t shoot me, that's how it landed)
Buffalo retains the 8th overall pick and we can start discussing which left-handed defenseman will the Sabres pick June 24th in Buffalo, NY.
The NHL moved the draft lottery back two weeks from the previous year, which is a pretty good move.
Sports fans across the country have been locked into the NFL Draft since Thursday and today beginning at noon, the NFL will wrap it up with rounds 4-7. With that draft still in the forefront of many, the NHL cane pony off of that and maybe draw some attention to the game via the lottery.
I'm still of the opinion that they need to spice it up and to a live draw complete with a person much more appealing than Deputy Commisioner Bill Daly hosting the show, but for this year their format will suffice.
The NHL will draw the winning combination behind closed doors with team executives witnessing the process. After that well probably see a reprisentative from Earnst and Young carry a stack of album-sized envelops to the podium where Daly will open them one-by-one beginning with the team that will have the 14th pick in the draft. Its a process that will hopefully, lead to any team other than the Edmonton Oilers winning the NHL Draft Lottery as theyve done in four of the last six years. 
This is not to say that the fix is in, but even Mike Brophy of The Hockey News wrote a piece entitled, NHL must prevent Oilers from getting another No. 1 pick. Brophy lays out  a brief, recent history of how four No.1 overall picks have and yet,the Oilers still stink. Brophy doesn’t say the NHL should fix the lottery this year, but he does mention that teams should not be allowed to have consecutive first-overall picks and that the NHL should change the rules to prevent that from happening.
Maybe that will allow the lottery to become more of an event complete with a live draw and changing odds for the team.
The NFL showed shots of the owners Kim and Terry Pegula in the Buffalo Bills "War room" at the draft. Both were on hand to witness some pretty fine work by Bills GM Doug Whaley. With a little bit of luck Whaley was able to combine "best player available" with "filling a position of need" in the first two rounds. In the second round he didn't hesitate to pay a big price to move up eight spots to select a player they would've drafted at their spot in the first round.
It was the second time Whaley displayed some kahunas to go and get a player he coveted.
Sabres GM Tim Murray (who was also in the Bills draft room) has done the same thing with the Sabres. He made blockbuster trades for both Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly while also sending a first round pick to Ottawa to land goalie, Robin Lehner. It's something we havent' seen in Buffalo in a very long time, perhaps stretching back to fomer Bills GM Bill Polian when he structured a three-team trade to land linebacker Cornelius Bennett, a key cog in Buffalo's defense through their heyday in the 90's.
The Pegula's have said time and again that their GM's will have the freedom to do what they feel was necessary for the success of their teams without any constraints. Both Whaley and Murray have shown some guts in doing so and it bodes well for the organization. How it all plays out remains to be seen, but it's a heckuva lot better than sitting on ones' hands waiting for something good to happen.
This is a big draft weekend for Buffalo sports as the Bills look to fortify their cap-strapped team with starters and the Sabres are looking for a little bit of luck to add more top-end quality through the draft.



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