September 24, 2020

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Lottery ball (unsurprisingly) bounces away from Jets 

Opinion

We shouldn't be surprised the Winnipeg Jets didn't win Monday night's surreal lottery to determine the rights to the No. 1-overall draft pick. That honour went to the New York Rangers, who are naturally ecstatic about adding teenage phenom Alexis Lafrenière to the bright lights of Broadway.

No, the real shock here is Winnipeg's lottery ball didn't shatter into a million pieces when it was dropped into the drum.

In a season where seemingly everything that could go wrong did — from player defections to contract disputes to major injuries — plenty of folks were holding out hope perhaps fate might have a nice parting gift for the Jets.

The New York Rangers are ecstatic about adding teenage phenom Alexis Lafrenière.

PETER POWER / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

The New York Rangers are ecstatic about adding teenage phenom Alexis Lafrenière.

Instead, the universe took one final shot at a NHL team that is used to getting punched in the face and kicked in the groin. Winnipeg will instead get the 10th-overall pick when the draft is held, in virtual form, over two days beginning Oct. 9.

If there's a silver lining for Jets fans, it's divisional rivals Nashville Predators or Minnesota Wild also had their one-in-eight shot fall short Monday. Having to watch Lafrenière line up against Winnipeg multiple times a year for the foreseeable future would have been really kicking them when they were down.

From a league perspective, thank goodness it wasn't the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins or Toronto Maple Leafs, either. All three of those organizations are absolutely loaded with high-end talent and had no business even being in this farce of a lottery to begin with.

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I'll go one step further and say none of the teams did.

Of the eight in the running Monday due to losing their qualifying round series, Pittsburgh had the best regular-season winning percentage at .623. Only six teams in the league were more successful. Minnesota, at .558, was 21st, which is still better than 10 other teams who didn't have a whiff.

Three of those clubs — Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens — are still playing hockey after qualifying series upsets, while the other seven (Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings) didn't make the cut for the expanded 24-team Stanley Cup tournament.

New York Rangers win NHL draft lottery

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New York Rangers' Chris Kreider (20) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with teammates Brendan Smith (42) and Kaapo Kakko (24) during second period NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Toronto on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The New York Rangers have won the NHL draft lottery. The club had a 12.5 per cent shot of securing the top pick in the second phase after a placeholder secured the No. 1 slot back in June. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
New York Rangers' Chris Kreider (20) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with teammates Brendan Smith (42) and Kaapo Kakko (24) during second period NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Toronto on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The New York Rangers have won the NHL draft lottery. The club had a 12.5 per cent shot of securing the top pick in the second phase after a placeholder secured the No. 1 slot back in June. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Posted: 10/08/2020 7:40 PM

TORONTO - The New York Rangers were the first team to see their NHL restart bubble burst.

They got a pretty nice consolation prize Monday.

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Their "reward" is getting draft picks Nos. 2-8 after the "mystery team" placeholder jumped them all and won the first stage of the draft lottery last month.

That includes the historically bad Red Wings, who finished 23 points behind the second-worst team in the league (Senators) and 40 points behind the Rangers, yet don't get to add the runaway best player in the annual teenage talent show.

The NHL created the lottery as a means to deter deliberate tanking, but the pendulum has clearly swung too far. A revamp is clearly in order.

As for the lottery presentation Monday, why not go all-in on the drama at this stage and eliminate one ball at a time, building to the final reveal? Instead, they just pulled the winner straight out, after a ridiculous, drawn-out introduction where NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was actually asked to confirm the logo of each team before the ball was dropped.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked to confirm the logo of each team before the ball was dropped.

CHARLES KRUPA / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked to confirm the logo of each team before the ball was dropped.

Of all who were eligible, the Wild deserved the pick more than anyone. They've never drafted first or second in the entire history, haven't had a top-five pick in 15 years, and have an aging club with few promising prospects in the pipeline. Lafrenière would have been a welcome addition.

Mike McIntyre’s fearless playoff predictions

It’s safe to say the 2020 NHL qualifying round didn’t exactly go as planned. Whether it was a pair of No. 5 seeds in Edmonton and Pittsburgh getting upset by No. 12 seeds Chicago and Montreal, Winnipeg’s lineup being decimated by major injuries, Arizona coming up clutch just days after their general manager quit or Toronto laying yet another post-season egg, who could have predicted chaos would reign supreme?

It’s safe to say the 2020 NHL qualifying round didn’t exactly go as planned. Whether it was a pair of No. 5 seeds in Edmonton and Pittsburgh getting upset by No. 12 seeds Chicago and Montreal, Winnipeg’s lineup being decimated by major injuries, Arizona coming up clutch just days after their general manager quit or Toronto laying yet another post-season egg, who could have predicted chaos would reign supreme?

Certainly not me, considering I went a pathetic one-for-eight in my predictions. Don’t worry folks, I feel your mocking and ridiculing and raise you great shame and self-loathing.

However, a new opportunity is upon us, with the first round of the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs set to begin today. With that comes renewed hope I can’t possibly pick ‘em any worse this time around, could I?

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

1. Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8) vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8)

I didn’t have Chicago beating Edmonton, but I did forecast them being a tough out given the championship pedigree still on the roster. And while Vegas is the superior team on paper — they looked terrific in the round robin, going 3-0 — the Blackhawks aren’t going to make it easy.

VEGAS IN 6

2. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8) vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8)

Turns out the sudden departure of GM John Chayka didn’t send the desert dogs into a tailspin after all. But they’re in trouble against a deep, talented Colorado team that should go through them with relative ease.

COLORADO IN 5

3. Dallas Stars (37-24-8) vs. 8. Calgary Flames (36-27-7)

Sure, the Jets were shorthanded for the brief series, but I’ll admit the Flames won me over with an intense, physical style of play. If they can continue to get top-notch goaltending from Cam Talbot, as they did against Winnipeg, then I don’t see a Dallas team that has been trending in the wrong direction both prior to, and after, the pause standing in their way.

CALGARY IN 6

4. St. Louis Blues (42-19-10) vs. 7. Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6)

St. Louis seemed to just be going through the motions during the round robin, losing games against Vegas, Colorado and Dallas. Vancouver looked like the real deal in disposing of Minnesota with relative ease. Still, I’m banking on the Blues finding another level real quick here, relying on last year’s run to the Stanley Cup.

ST. LOUIS IN 6

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7) vs. 12. Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9)

Can goalie Carey Price take out the entire state of Pennsylvania? He was spectacular in the upset of the mighty Penguins, and now faces a Flyers team that is firing on all cylinders. Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, but the clock is about to strike midnight.

PHILADELPHIA IN 6

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6) vs. 9. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-22-15)

John Tortorella is a wizard. How else to explain how the bombastic bench boss continues to get the most out of his club, even when it appears it is down and out? Columbus has a terrific blue-line and goaltending, and just enough offence, to make it a scary team. Tampa may be without stars Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to start the series. Still, I see the Lightning getting revenge for last year’s ouster at the hands of the Blue Jackets in what should be a terrific series.

TAMPA BAY IN 7

3. Washington Capitals (41-20-8) vs. 7. New York Islanders (35-23-10)

Isles coach Barry Trotz facing the team he led to a Stanley Cup will be a major storyline, and the Islanders will give the Capitals fits with their solid defensive structure and attention to detail. But I think Washington’s big offensive guns will find a way to break through, especially on the power play.

WASHINGTON IN 6

4. Boston Bruins (44-14-12) vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5)

Carolina is the only pick I had right in the qualifying round, so I’m not about to bail on the “Bunch of Jerks” now. They’re out to avenge last year’s playoff elimination at the hands of the Bruins, and you can’t help but be impressed with their mix of young skill and veteran poise. Boston, the regular-season’s best team, looked pretty average in the round robin, and I see this one going the distance, albeit with a different outcome than last year.

CAROLINA IN 7

Instead, he's off to the Big Apple. This will be the fourth consecutive year the Rangers have had a top-10 pick, coming off last year's second-overall selection of Kaapo Kakko, along with the ninth pick in 2018, and the seventh in 2017. They were already making rapid improvements; this is going to accelerate the process.

With last week's elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames still stinging, it's likely little consolation the Jets are still going to get a strong prospect with the No. 10-overall selection.

This will mark the fifth-highest pick they've had in the 10 drafts since relocating from Atlanta.

A quick history lesson shows there's a legitimate chance to land an impact player who can help the club for years to come. In 2016, the ball bounced the Jets' way and awarded them the second-overall pick (Patrik Laine); in 2014, Winnipeg drafted ninth overall (Nikolaj Ehlers); ninth in 2012 (Jacob Trouba); seventh in 2011 (Mark Scheifele).

Cole Perfetti's name has appeared in the No. 10 spot on various 2020 scouting ranking reports.

PETER POWER

Cole Perfetti's name has appeared in the No. 10 spot on various 2020 scouting ranking reports.

Among the names that have been included in the No. 10 on various 2020 scouting ranking reports are: Canadian forwards Cole Perfetti and Jack Quinn, American defenceman Jake Sanderson, Swedish winger Alexander Holtz, Finnish centre Anton Lundell, and Russian goaltender Iaroslav Askarov.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff will now have a busy couple months ahead, coming up with a game plan for a most important pick. Winnipeg's prospect pool has gotten thinner in recent years with the graduation of so many players to the big club, including young skaters such as Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, Sami Niku and Tucker Poolman.

Before they can restock the shelves, however, the Jets will likely spend a little longer licking their wounds and wondering just how they can get back in the good graces of the hockey gods going forward.

Speaking of which, if anyone knows a good witch doctor or shaman, I know a hockey team that could use a little help...

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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History

Updated on Monday, August 10, 2020 at 7:20 PM CDT: Byline added.

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