The NHL regular season is finally coming to a close. While some teams are looking to use the final stretch to make a last-minute playoff push, the Red Wings are in the same position they’ve been for at least four years: looking towards the draft rather than the postseason.
It may be tough to hear, but Octopus Thrower’s own Nate Brown said it best: the Draft Lottery takes precedence, and Detroit should be swept by the Blue Jackets in their final two games of the 2020-21 season.
Race For the Bottom
The Red Wings are currently the fifth worst team in the league, at least according to win percentage. A nicer way to put it? They have the sixth best odds in the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery. Anaheim, Columbus, New Jersey, Seattle and Buffalo are all ahead of Detroit on the race for worst. It’s unlikely, but Detroit could find themselves as high as second in this years draft.
Buffalo essentially has the top spot locked up. Even if they won their three remaining games, the 16 wins would simply tie the next worst team, the Ducks.
For Detroit to leap to the second spot, the Ducks would have to win three of their last four games.
With the Seattle Kraken entering the league this year, the new franchise is automatically slotted into third for the lottery. That means any team that finishes better than 2nd will be bumped down by the Kraken. This is important, because the Red Wings are currently slated to finished in the top seven.
That brings us to the two teams ahead of ahead of Detroit in the battle of draft positioning, New Jersey and Columbus. The Devils actually have five games left, so two wins would hypothetically allow the Wings to surpass them.
Columbus presents the most effective way to secure higher lottery odds. The Blue Jackets have just two more points than Detroit, with four games remaining on their schedule. They face the Nashville Predators before heading for their final series of the year against Detroit.
If you are a Red Wings fan looking for better draft odds, these last two games are key: Detroit must lose both games against Columbus. With Nashville clawing for the playoffs, the Blue Jackets will likely add two more losses to their resume before hosting the Wings.
If Detroit is swept in their final series, the absolute worst case is somewhere between fifth and seventh. But more realistically, two losses would keep them in the top five, and if Anaheim and New Jersey finish their season strong, it could even slot them as high as second.
With the luck Detroit has had in the lottery in recent years, it can be hard to root for better draft positioning, especially in a year without a consensus number one player. But better odds never hurt, especially for a franchise still in need of elite talent.