It's time to face the cold reality that the NHL lockout could potentially claim the entire 2012-13 season. Obviously, no one wants that to happen but it's time to start analyzing what will happen if a deal isn't reached in time to salvage the season.
What happens to the 2013 NHL Draft if there isn't a 2012-13 season to base it on? We take a look back at what happened after the 2004-05 lockout in an attempt to predict what might happen in 2013.
Let's all hope that this article is made irrelevant in the coming weeks. The NHL is foolish to have another lockout fresh off the 2004-05 one, but they'd be insane to let this one claim an entire season. Hopefully the two sides can reach a deal and have a shortened 2012-13 season. The Cup deserves to be hoisted.
That being said, it's time to look into the future and predict what will happen to the 2013 NHL Draft.
First, let's start with the optimistic approach. If the players and owners reach a deal in time to salvage the NHL season, the 2013 NHL Draft should resemble the 2012 NHL Draft and most drafts before it. Picks would be determined by where a team finished the year prior, barring trades. Ideally, this is how 2013 should go assuming the league is able to come to their senses.
Unfortunately, we can't bank on the two sides having common sense and saving the season. As we saw in 2004-05, sometimes stupidity prevails. In the event the 2012-13 season is wiped off the map completely, here's how we envision the 2013 Draft would play out based on what happened in the 2005 NHL Draft.
Keep in mind these are assumptions based on the past. The league could very well change protocol and do something completely different. Still, we think these are safe bets in the horrible scenario no hockey is played in 2012-13.
The draft format was altered slightly in 2005. Instead of the usual format where the teams pick first through thirtieth and then the order repeats, the NHL used a snaking format. The team with the 30th pick made their selection at the thirtieth spot and then picked again 31st. The order then went backwards back to the team with the first overall pick.
This snaking format is commonly seen in fantasy sports and makes things more fair for the team that received a late selection in the lottery.
Since you couldn't base the 2005 draft order on the 2004-05 season, the NHL was forced to use a lottery to determine seeding. Here they used a ball system where teams were assigned between one and three balls (we'll let you make your own jokes here). The number of balls a team was assigned was based on their past playoff appearances and first overall picks in the past three years.
Under the format above, the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets had three balls, or, the best odds to receive a favorable spot in the draft.
As you know, the Penguins won the first overall pick - a pick they used to add Sidney Crosby to their ranks.
Pittsburgh fans rejoiced while fans of other teams cried foul, cursing the fact they missed out on one of the best NHL prospects in decades due to a silly lottery.
Will 2013 Resemble 2005?
The answer to the title of this section is we certainly hope not. The current lockout shouldn't stretch into two seasons. It shouldn't even claim one season. The two sides need to realize that the ends won't justify the means as more and more games are canceled.
However, it's safe to say the NHL would likely use a similar format in 2013 as they did in 2005 if the 2012-13 season is lost. While their 2005 Draft format didn't please everyone, it was a successful way to make the Draft as fair as possible without any tangible standings. Some teams benefited from the lottery and some teams were left out in the cold, but that's the case even in regular drafts.
Curious as to what the 2014 Draft would look like if two seasons are claimed by the lockout? We have a simple answer to that: There won't be one. If the NHL is foolish enough to let this lockout run wild and claim two years, you might as well close the book on the NHL. Even the most loyal fans won't return if two years are lost.
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I find that I've actually become more pessimistic about the whole thing since the predictions post nearly a month ago (http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2012-articles/september/fans-predict-the-length-of-a-lockout.html).
As to the draft, if there's not a season to base it on, why not base it on the previous one? That would at least be grounded in some semblance of reality, as far as competitive vs. non-competitive teams go.
@miendiem I'm not sure I think the NHL's method is the most fair but I'll be honest I don't think using the previous season's data is very fair. Under that principle, a team could have the top pick twice in two drafts, one in 2012 and the hypothetical one in 2013 - hardly a fair scenario.
@David Rogers I see where you're coming from. I guess, from my perspective, the teams at the bottom are generally there for a few years, so it seems like a safe guess to say that the teams that were bad last year would have done the same (roughly) in a cancelled season.
Sure, there's room for that to move around, but that's why they (are supposed to) play the games.