With the 2014 NHL regular season officially history, the fourteen clubs without a playoff dance partner will now turn their attention to Tuesday’s Draft Lottery. For one team, tomorrow will become Christmas in April. Well, except for New Jersey. They’ll lose even if they do happen to win, as penance for dancing around the salary cap with former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract.
For the casual observer, perhaps the most compelling storyline surrounding this year’s lottery is the New York Islanders’ forthcoming decision on whether they’ll keep their 2014 first round pick or send it 400 miles upstate to Buffalo.
Isles general manager Garth Snow has put himself into the unenviable position of having to give the Sabres his team’s top choice either this June or in 2015, courtesy of last autumn’s trade that temporarily brought Thomas Vanek to Uniondale.
As it turns out, this swap may end up being among the greatest gifts a deposed GM ever gave his former team on his way out the door. As such, ex-Sabre Darcy Reiger deserves some kudos.
For Snow, who for some reason is still employed, here’s how it shakes out: after the lottery the Islanders will select from either the #1, #5 or #6 slot in 2014. And while this upcoming draft projects to be nothing particularly special, a Top 6 pick in any year is very hard to part with.
Should they opt to retain it, the Sabres would then be handed a possible, and some might speculate likely, lottery pick in the much deeper 2015 Draft; one laden with potential superstars at its top.
So what do you do? If you’re the Sabres, nothing. You simply sit back and wait to see which of the two spectacular windfalls you’ll receive for dealing a player who was certain to skate away to greener pastures this off-season, anyway. And then be ecstatic over either.
If you’re the Islanders, I don’t know. Maybe you pull a Monty Python and just “run away, run away!” Or perhaps call Doc Brown and see if he’ll re-set the DeLorean for last October.
Neither of those scenarios seem plausible however, so what the Isles are left with is a clear lose-lose situation: They either give up their top pick now and keep their fingers crossed that they’ll reel in a superstar next year; or keep it. And then hope their weak roster significantly overachieves in 2015 so there’s no chance their fan base has to watch the Buffalo Sabres being led till 2030 by a guy who should’ve been their franchise player.
As a guy who has difficulty simply choosing between a side order of french fries or a Caesar salad, I’m sure glad I’m not the one having to make the decision the Isles will shortly be faced with. In the former instance, I usually just opt to order both. In his case though Mr. Snow unfortunately cannot.
2014 Draft Lottery positions. (Per TSN) Teams are listed in order of greatest percentage chance of acquiring the first overall pick:
12) New Jersey
The 2014 NHL Draft Lottery is Tuesday April 15. (8:00p.m. ET)