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Flames feel current lottery system leaves room for improvement

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Ask him and he’ll tell you.

Brian Burke believes there’s a better way than the current NHL Draft lottery process.

“If you believe in the inverse order of drafting,” started the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames, “if you believe that the worst team should be rewarded with the best player, then this might not be the fairest system.

“Unfortunately we have had to go to a lottery because of the conduct of certain teams. Okay, we’re stuck with the lottery. Is this the most equitable way? In this system, you could have the team with the three highest point totals pick one, two, three, of the non-playoff teams. No one ever wanted that; no one ever imaged that.

"Now, statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that it’s going to happen. That’s one issue, to me, including all non-playoff teams. I’m not sure … the whole inverse order thing, there’s a reason for that.”

The draft lottery was implemented as a form of discouragement to teams from tanking with the hopes of earning the No. 1 pick.

It hasn’t, though.

It hasn’t equated to more balance, either.

For example, the Edmonton Oilers, who finished 29th in the overall standings this season, have selected first overall in four of the past six drafts.

But the Oilers themselves aren’t at issue.

The process is.

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke, who has served as GM for the Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, ‘how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

Discussions to find a system have happened. General managers discussed ideas at March meetings in Florida.

The appetite wasn’t big enough to alter the current format, which was shifted two years ago to implement changes that lowered the odds of lottery success for the league’s worst teams.

This year will see a draw for the first three picks, for the first time in league history, take place on April 30.

“Is there a perfect system?” questioned Flames GM Brad Treliving. “I don’t know if you can ever come up with a perfect system. The object of the draft is if you finish with the 30th record you have the best opportunity to pick arguably the best player in the draft. I get that.

“There’s been talk at the managers level of is there a need to look at something to prevent teams from picking first in consecutive years. I think those discussions will continue.

“At the end of the day these are the rules we have today.”

But not necessarily the rules Burke would like to see.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” said Burke, who will represent the Flames at the lottery drawing.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

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