Buffalo Sabres: Desperate for positivity in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery

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

Contradicting the bad luck the Buffalo Sabres have become accustomed to, they will need a lot of good fortune to improve on their current position in Friday’s NHL Draft Lottery.

We wrote recently about the ongoing nightmare being endured by the Buffalo Sabres. Among other things, they have the longest active playoff drought in the NHL and already on their fourth general manager since Terry Pegula bought the team in 2011.

The whole situation with the franchise was best highlighted by the recent firing of 22 staff members, described perfectly by TSN‘s Frank Seravalli as a bloodletting that may be unprecedented in NHL history. Now, more than ever, the Sabres need some good fortune.

Which brings us the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery that takes place on Friday at 8 pm ET. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the lottery will take on a slightly different format this year, but lets concentrate on the Sabres first of all.

Given that not every team played the same number of regular season games, they were ranked based on points percentage. This system has the Sabres currently sitting in the seventh spot, as the last of the teams who did not make the playoff qualifying round.

You might be wondering why the New Jersey Devils are in sixth spot ahead of the Sabres, when both teams played the same number of regular season games and finished with identical points. This is because the Devils had a worse regulation/overtime winning percentage – in other words, even when the Sabres have shown more fight and effort, it has still cost them and helps continue the narrative of things always going wrong no matter what they do.

As a result, the Sabres have a 6.5 percent chance of winning the top pick in this year’s draft. For perspective the Detroit Red Wings have a 18.5 percent chance of getting the first overall pick, while the Ottawa Senators actually have a 25 percent chance by virtue of currently holding both the second and third spots.

Certainly, the Sabres will need an extremely huge slice of luck to somehow end up with the first overall pick. It comes as no surprise that their history includes missing out on the top spot in 2014 and 2015, despite having the worst record in the league on both occasions.

Undoubtedly 2015 particularly hurts, as no matter how good Jack Eichel is, he will never be on the same level as Connor McDavid. There is some hope however, as evidenced by winning the lottery in 2018 after again finishing last in the standings, which led to the drafting of Rasmus Dahlin.

Of course it’s one thing to clinch the first overall pick in the draft when you have the most favorable odds. Trying to achieve the same thing when you have the seventh-best odds is another matter altogether, especially when you’re the Buffalo Sabres.

In this respect you could even have another nightmare scenario to add to the list, with the Sabres actually moving down in the draft order. This would be the ultimate kick in the teeth at a time when the overall morale surrounding the franchise is arguably at an all-time low.

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As mentioned earlier, this year’s draft lottery will have a different setup due to COVID-19. As per Tom Gulitti of NHL.com, Friday will be the first phase and consists of three drawings involving 15 teams. (The first drawing will determine the top overall draft pick in 2020, the second drawing will decide the number two pick and the third drawing will choose number three.)

The 15 teams will include the seven who won’t play again in 2019-20 and eight placeholder positions. The eight placeholder positions will not have assigned teams until after the qualifying round of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

A second phase of the draft lottery will only be necessary if one of the eight placeholder positions wins any of the first three drawings to move up into a top three pick. Under these circumstances, the team or teams would be decided by another lottery of the eight losers from the qualifying round.

Returning to the Sabres, even moving up one spot in the draft would be considered a win after everything that has happened this season, whereas moving down would just be the final nail in the coffin that is the 2019-20 campaign. Never has the franchise been in so much need of some positivity and fans can only hope this comes on Friday night, courtesy of the draft lottery.

Next. Deciding which Sabres' UFAs will return next season. dark

Assuming the Buffalo Sabres remain in seventh spot in the 2020 NHL draft, who would you like them to select? If they manage to move up one place, who would you choose with the sixth pick? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.