Buffalo Sabres set to be in a worse position come draft time

Terry Pegula of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Terry Pegula of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With the NHL reportedly set to revert to the previous lottery system in the event of a June draft, the Buffalo Sabres would conceivably find themselves in a worse position, but there might be a silver lining.

As we wrote a few days ago, the NHL is pushing for a June draft even though the 2019-20 season has yet to be restarted, never mind concluded. If this proposal comes to fruition, the Buffalo Sabres would theoretically be among those teams unhappy with this outcome.

As reported by TSN‘s Bob McKenzie, a June draft would see the NHL revert to the previous draft lottery format. This would mean the lottery winner can’t move up more than four slots, resulting in only the league’s bottom five teams being able to win the number one draft pick.

As things stand, the Sabres are ranked seventh-worst in the NHL standings based on points per game percentage. This means the best they could do would be to move up to third place, whereas the current draft lottery system sees them with a 6.5 percent chance of actually winning the top pick.

As per McKenzie, the last time the NHL used the previous draft lottery format was in 2012. Based on those odds, the Buffalo Sabres would have a 4.7 percent chance of winning the lottery and thus moving up to third place in this year’s draft.

The reason for the league wanting to use the previous lottery format if a June draft goes ahead, is because of their potential plans for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign. Pending when the season restarts, it’s possible they may go straight to the playoffs.

If this is the case, there is talk of having more teams qualify. Under these circumstances, if the current draft lottery system was still implemented, you could have a scenario where a team wins both the Stanley Cup and the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

As per Matt Bove of WKBW Buffalo, the most popular playoff scenario would see four mini playoff tournaments in different cities, if regular season play isn’t resumed. The top six teams in each division would be seeded and then play their mini tournament in one of the four allocated cities.

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Bove goes on to write that the top two seeds would play a best-of-three series, to determine the division winner. Meanwhile, the third seed would meet the sixth seed and the fourth seed would face the fifth, for the right to continue playing.

The current standings would serve up a tantalizing matchup for the Sabres, versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs would understandably be the favourites in such a scenario.

Despite the apparent disparity in quality on the two rosters however, it’s worth noting Buffalo tied the season series with Toronto 2-2. The home team won each of the meetings, with the Sabres having the slight edge of 15-13 in overall goals scored.

Ultimately, from our perspective we would still be loathe to hold the draft so soon. At least wait a while longer, to see if a clearer idea emerges of when the 2019-20 season can resume.

However, we appreciate there are plenty of Buffalo Sabres fans who would gladly sacrifice a potentially better draft position in exchange for a playoff spot. After all, the team has failed to qualify for the postseason in each of the previous eight campaigns.

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What is your take on the NHL potentially reverting to the previous lottery system in the event of a June draft? Do you believe the draft should be happening so soon, with the 2019-20 season yet to even restart, never mind conclude? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.