With the season winding down and the final standings coming into focus, it's becoming increasingly apparent to me that the Islanders will not be finishing in the basement. With the league as a whole on an upswing with roughly 20 teams vying for a combination of playoff spots, home-ice advantage and the President's Trophy, this season can easily be ranked as one of, it not the best since the work stoppage. The Islanders, however, are in a bitter battle of their own as the curtain closes on the 2008-2009 campaign.
Since Christmas, Islanders fans have been itching at a shot for either John Tavares or Victor Hedman. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Islanders would be a lock to finish dead last in this 30 team league. Not so fast. Enter the Colorado Avalanche. If you want to talk about a sad story in this league, you can't find many that would best the pitfalls the Avalanche have endured this year other than the Islanders, of course.
Even with NHL "stars" Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stasny, John-Michael Liles and Adam Foote, the Avalanche have managed a paltry 64 points overall. As the Islanders have, the Avalanche also have been racked with injuries (The Islanders have a clear lead in Total Man Games Lost with well over 500 this season). The goaltending duo of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft have played so poorly this year that they both rank in the bottom five of most goaltending stats. The head coach, Tony Granato, has been on the hot seat for most of the season and probably will see his tenure end as quickly as the final buzzer. Suffice it to say, it's been an absolute mess.
With their loss last night to Phoenix, 3-0, it has become clear to this blogger that the "lead" the Islanders had to secure the last overall spot is in serious danger (the Isles have 59 points). The boys have been playing well the second half of the season and I wouldn't be totally surprised if they ended up in 29th when all is said and done. What does this mean when April 14th rolls around and the Draft Lottery is conducted? Well, a few things. Let's review.
I've been saying this all year; if the Islanders were unlucky enough to secure 30th place they would likely get bumped down to 2nd overall in the Draft anyway. It's been a trend ever since the Draft Lottery was instituted in 1995 where only 4 teams have retained the 1st overall pick.
See the tables below courtesy of Lightning.NHL.com:
Results of Previous Draft Drawings
|Year||Selected||Effect On Draft Order||Player Selected|
|1995||Los Angeles||Moved from 7th to 3rd||D Aki Berg|
|1996||Ottawa||Retained 1st selection||D Chris Phillips|
|1997||Boston||Retained 1st selection||C Joe Thornton|
|1998||Tampa Bay||Moved from 3rd to 1st via trades||C Vincent Lecavalier|
|1999||Chicago||Moved from 8th to 4th||RW Pavel Brendl*|
|2000||NY Islanders||Moved from 5th to 1st||G Rick DiPietro|
|2001||Atlanta||Moved from 3rd to 1st||LW Ilya Kovalchuk|
|2002||Florida||Moved from 3rd to 1st||LW Rick Nash**|
|2003||Florida||Moved from 4th to 1st||G Marc-Andre Fleury***|
|2004||Washington||Moved from 3rd to 1st||LW Alex Ovechkin|
|2005||Pittsburgh||N/A||C Sidney Crosby|
|2006||St. Louis||Retained 1st selection||D Erik Johnson|
|2007||Chicago||Moved from 5th to 1st||RW Patrick Kane|
|2008||Tampa Bay||Retained 1st selection||C Steven Stamkos****|
* NY Rangers obtained Chicago's pick in a trade (via Vancouver and Tampa Bay). The Rangers selected RW Pavel Brendl fourth overall.
** Columbus obtained Florida's pick in a trade. The Blue Jackets selected LW Rick Nash first overall.
*** Pittsburgh obtained Florida's pick in a trade. The Penguins selected G Marc-Andre Fleury first overall.
****At the time the table was created the 2008 NHL Entry Draft had not yet occurred.
Now this doesn't mean that I believe if the Islanders finish 29th or 30th, that they won't get lucky and move up or retain the pick but it's certainly not a proven commodity. No team that has finished 2nd to last in the league has EVER selected 1st overall in that draft year. I would be completely surprised if that trend didn't continue this year. And obviously, even though the team that finishes last has a 48.2% chance of retaining the 1st overall, the roughly 21.7% of the time it has happened certainly is not living up to the law of probabilities.
Frankly, Islanders fans need to come to grips with the distinct possibility that the Isles won't even pick in the top 2 in this Draft. You might want to start buying those Matt Duchene jersey's early to get a discount...instead of jumping the gun and getting that Tavares jersey (thanks to Puck Daddy for catching that one).