Although the team took the ice for the final time this past Saturday, the New York Islanders 2011-12 season doesn’t officially end until after tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery. A little after 8 p.m. tonight (TSN, NBC Sports, live blog/storystream at SB Nation here) we will finally know what the Islanders tangibly played for this season.
Sure they played for progress and pride. There were personal milestones and comebacks from injuries. Statements were made, both good and bad. But the Islanders still finished in 27th place in a 30 team league. There are no trophies for 4th from last. Nobody hangs a banner on Opening Day the season after a 27th place finish.
The only prize you receive after a season like that is a decent draft pick. The Isles' most likely spot lies right where they sit at press time, which is the 4 spot. They have a 66.7% chance of staying right where they are.
The kick in the teeth would be if someone behind them in the draft order wins the lottery. That would drop them back from the 4 spot to the 5 spot, which of course happened last year when the Devils won the lottery. There is a 22.6% chance of that happening:
Chances of a Winning the Lottery
*Note: Winning means you can move up at most four slots; note that Columbus has a 48.2% chance of staying put.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets - 25.0%
29. Edmonton Oilers - 18.8%
28. Montreal Canadiens - 14.2%
27. New York Islanders - 10.7%
26. Toronto Maple Leafs - 8.1%
25. Anaheim Ducks - 6.2%
24. Minnesota Wild - 4.7%
23. Carolina Hurricanes - 3.6%
22. Winnipeg Jets - 2.7%
21. Tampa Bay Lightning - 2.1%
20. Washington Capitals (from Colorado) - 1.5%
19. Buffalo Sabres - 1.1%
18. Dallas Stars - 0.8%
17. Calgary Flames - 0.5%
So if my math hasn’t failed me, that leaves the Islanders with a 10.7% chance of getting the ultimate prize, and stealing the first overall pick away from the Columbus Blue Jackets. And if you’re thinking 10.7% aren’t good odds at all (you’re a smart one, because they’re not) history shows us that anything is possible when it comes to the NHL Draft Lottery.
And if you don’t believe me, here are some numbers to prove it:
- Only 6 out of the 17 last place teams have retained the first overall pick after the lottery was over (technically the Penguins were the worst team to have played in the NHL when they won it in 2005, but that was following a lockout year, so really they were a year removed from being the bottom of the bottom). That’s only a 35.5% winning percentage for the last place team.
- The lottery winner has come from the 3, 4, or 5 position more times than the 1 position (7 to 6). That’s good news for the Isles. The bad news? The lottery winner has only come from the 4 spot once in lottery history (Panthers in 2003)
- The team in the 2 spot has never moved up to claim the first overall pick, despite an 18.8% chance of winning. To add insult to injury, the team in the number 2 spot has been dropped to the third overall pick 7 times.
- A team outside of the Top 4 has only won the lottery 5 times, good news if you fear the Islanders dropping a spot in the draft once again in 2012. The bad news is that the Islanders were one of those teams in the 2000 lottery and drafted a goalie with the top pick.
Only the balls know what’s going to happen tonight in prime time (unless you’re into conspiracy theories, in which case we all know the Maple Leafs will "win" the grand prize). The history of the NHL lottery has proven that it really is anyone's game to win.
There is still a chance, a 10.7% one, that the Islanders will be able to look back at the 2011-12 season and say they made progress as a team, progress individually as players, and progress in the rebuild by adding the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.