Thursday, April 7, 2016

20 versus 10, the Myth of the Tank

Listen to me boy, when I'm talkin' to ya!
Boy's about as sharp as a bowling ball!
These are agonizing times for Blue Jackets fans.  The team is well out of the playoffs and the only thing to look forward to is the draft.  Last night, a Blue Jackets team with a healthy spicing of Lake Erie Monsters whip-sawed a Toronto Maple Leafs team composed largely of Marlies in the 3rd period; scoring 4 goals to ensure that the Blue Jackets could finish no lower than 28th.  This means the CBJ have roughly a 10% chance of winning the lottery for the number one pick.  Yes, you can quibble about the difference between 13.5% and 11%, but it's still roughly a 1 in 10 chance.

I feel bad for the tooth gnashing from those CBJ fans that wanted us to lose last night.  The myth is that somehow we could out tank Edmonton and Toronto, and magically finish last, and get a wonderful 2 in 10 chance of winning (20%).  Let's flip this around for perspective.  If you manage to sufficiently disgrace yourself to finish last, you only lose 8 out of 10 times instead of losing 9 out of 10 times.  These are not great odds folks.

When Scott Arniel gifted us with a massively failed hockey team, built around the illusion that Colorado was a good young hockey team (a coach and GM combination working there) and we finished last, we still lost the lottery.  Edmonton has gone on an odds shattering tear of winning the lottery, which has gotten them what?  A spot lower than us in the standings!  This is not a model for success.  Why?  Because HOCKEY IS A TEAM GAME!!  Sorry for shouting, but jeez, even Mike Arace drank the Kool-Aid.

Part of the myth of tanking is that this was the path to success for the Penguins.  They got Sidney Crosby is a rigged draft [adjusts foil hat to protect brain waves] which has netted them one Stanley Cup.  If memory serves me correctly, both Crosby and Malkin were out for extended periods the year they won the Cup, and the team won anyway, suggesting that Marc-Andre Fleury is a lot more important to them for winning a Cup than Sidney Crosby.  They also had a hard working team that won without the stars (Jordan Staal slid up the lineup at center I believe).  They had a good team!  It wasn't about their draft position.  Once that team got broken up, how many Cups have they won because of that draft position?

Edmonton has won the lottery 4 freaking times in recent history!  Where has it gotten them?  No where!  Because their team is top heavy at forward, and has no back end.  Let's run down the list of sure fire franchise savers: Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and now Conner McDavid.  Every single one of these guys was supposed to be a sure fire franchise savior.  The reality is, no one player ever saves a hockey team, because hockey is the ultimate team sport.

So let's think about this.  We lose the lottery.  All three of them, because we have a 90% chance of losing each draw.  I figure Shanahan already made a deal with Bettman, and totally wastes a tank because they were going to win it anyhow.  I don't care how good Auston Matthews is, he is not going to make that hot mess we watched last night a playoff team next year; which is what I think Toronto fans expect.  Edmonton wins one of the lottery spots because it's what they do (thanks Geico).  Another Canadian team wins one because Bettman is sympathetic, and the CBJ pick fourth.  Worst case we pick sixth.  Then in the second round, we revert to our finishing position, which is the important thing.  Drafting relatively high in the later rounds is what allows you to build a team through the draft.

No matter what happens, we get to push another load of better than average talent into our developmental system.  The Lake Erie Monsters are not just a one man show.  There have been key players pulled out of their lineup all year long, and they have managed to keep winning.  There is depth down there.  We have more good players coming up out of juniors to join the ranks of the Monsters next year.  We are getting ready to load another round of good players into juniors.  THAT is our benefit from this year.

We will get a really good player to add to our team.  Ideally we draft at least fourth, and we may get an impact player.  Otherwise we'll get someone who might need and extra year of development.  It is the cumulative impact of the group of players that makes a difference, not the one.

Lots of our young players have sniffed the NHL this year, to give them a feel for what they need to be.  That they go back into the development system is a normal course of their development into NHL players.  We already have a very young team.  Teaching them to lose is the last thing we want.  Teaching them to win is what we want.

I am not crushed that we eliminated ourselves from having an 80% chance of losing, and now we have a 90% chance of losing.  We've had an 80% chance of losing before, and shockingly, we lost!  We also tend to lose when we have a 90% chance of losing.  I will say that we have played the game enough to have lost those 10-11 times, so the pressure of the odds are building in our favor.  But Shanahan took care of that before he left DoPS, so the odds won't really figure in this one.

Interestingly though, we do get three rolls of the dice.  That is a new dynamic.  So we shall see.

Don't drink the Kool-Aid.  The tank is not the answer!


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