Ah, the NHL draft lottery, one of the most overthought, sketchy systems in sports today theoretically designed to deter teams from tanking. Whether or not it achieves its goal is up for debate, but it opens the door for teams higher in the standings to get their chance at a top draft pick.
Thanks to their recent winning ways, the Philadelphia Flyers have ruined their draft positioning for an attempted stealing of the first overall pick. If the season ends today, they would draft 11th overall. The Flyers have racked up 51 points at the All-Star break, which is the metaphorical Mason-Dixon Line between the current playoff hopeful teams and the clubs that are quickly falling out of a postseason spot. The Panthers, the next team above them, have 54 points and the Red Wings below them have 50.
While there’s still plenty of time for that to fluctuate in either direction, its not exactly the Bedard-winning selection most were hoping for. They’ve got 31 games left when the schedule picks back up.
As you can see the pack is starting to sort itself out. The basement teams have fallen so far back at this point that the bottom four teams are now in the main battle for Bedard. The Sharks, Canucks and Canadiens can still swing either way, but soon they’ll be out of reach as well. Then there’s the Blues, Senators, Red Wings and Flyers, who will fight for the best (worst?) positioning as the teams who aren’t good enough to make a run at a playoff wildcard spot.
If the Flyers hang around at 11, they’ve got just a 3% chance at the first overall pick come lottery time. And something else to remember- teams can now only move up a maximum of 10 spots in the lottery, a change made for the 2022 draft, meaning if the Flyers finish 12th or higher, they will have no chance at the first overall pick, and then just a 2.9% chance at the second overall.
So if the lottery either doesn’t impact the Flyers because they finished too high or they don’t win with their minuscule odds, do they consider trading the pick?
While it’s too early to make that call one way or the other, the higher it becomes the better the argument to deal it away in search of main roster help right now. Unless lightning strikes twice and the Flyers make some kind of historic jump like they did in the 2017 lottery, a pick that ends up in the low teens doesn’t help the Flyers in their current state. Even if the 2023 draft ends up being deeper than most, once you get out of the top 10, everything becomes some level of crapshoot.
It doesn’t help that there’s no palpable direction the Flyers are taking. The season was originally pegged as a “retool” that turned into “stabilization” that has had better real life results than many were expecting. Do they actually plan on adding talent in 2023 in order to continue their slow rise and potentially make the playoff in 2024? Or do they continue to sit in the murky middle ground and miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year because the front office is terrified of making changes?
Either path is plausible.
The Flyers could still use some help in the prospect pool, but if their targeted player falls in the good-not-great category and takes three to five years to even reach the NHL, is this where the organization should be? Are they still just punting the ball down the line? How much longer can they refuse to make tangible changes to the roster instead of fluffing their hopes and dreams that, after a decade of drafting and development, have failed to pan out?
This is certainly a topic that will be revisited once the dominos from the draft lottery are known, but considering the on-ice trends for the Flyers have been relatively positive as the season has gone on, a collapse that would drastically improve their positioning is growing more and more unlikely. At this rate, it’d be pretty on-brand for the Flyers to finish 12th or higher and be out of the lottery scene entirely. They’re going to have to put a competitive team on the ice sooner or later, and hiding behind the faux promising future of draft picks doesn’t provide the same comfort it used to.
Trading the pick doesn’t have to be a guarantee, but if there ends up being a worthwhile top player available via trade on the day of the draft, Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the geriatric front office needs to tighten their Depends and consider all their options, however risky and unpopular at face value it may be.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: sportingnews.com