30 Thoughts: How playoffs affect draft selection

Pittsburgh Penguins' David Perron (39) checks Washington Capitals' Brooks Orpik (44) along the boards. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

One of the most oft-tweeted questions at this time of year is some variation of, “Ok Team X is eliminated from the playoffs. My favourite team has their first-round draft pick. Where is it?”

With that, Sportsnet presents its handy-dandy guide: How Playoff Eliminations Affect Draft Selection.

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First, the easy stuff. The Draft Lottery determined positioning for the first 14 teams. Multiple sources indicate Edmonton won this event (trying to confirm), followed by Buffalo, Arizona, Toronto, Carolina, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Columbus, San Jose, Colorado, Florida, Dallas, Los Angeles and Boston.

Whoever wins the Stanley Cup picks 30th. The other finalist picks 29th. The two teams that lost in the conference finals pick 27th and 28th. Exact order is determined by who had fewer points in the regular season, with that club getting the 27th slot. (If there is a tie, follow the usual tie-breaking procedures.)

Now, here comes the more-complicated part: draft choices 15-26. Teams eliminated in the first two rounds who did not win a division title come next, followed by those who did win a division, but lost before the Eastern and Western Finals. Again, fewest points equals a better selection.

We can’t officially say who’s picking where yet, because Calgary still gets the 15th pick if it loses to Anaheim. The Flames would jump to at least 27th if they won this series, not that anyone dancing around The Red Mile would care.

In that case, Edmonton would have the 15th selection, because it acquired Pittsburgh’s top choice in the David Perron trade. As it stands, the Oilers will choose no worse than 16th. Based on who has lost already, we know the order goes: Edmonton (in Pittsburgh’s spot), Winnipeg, Ottawa, Buffalo (in the Islanders’ spot), Vancouver, Toronto (in Nashville’s spot) and Winnipeg (in St. Louis’s position, from the Evander Kane trade).

The second Winnipeg selection cannot go any higher, because the Blues were the lowest-ranking division champion. It will drop lower if Anaheim, Montreal or the Rangers wins in the next round.

The Flyers have Tampa’s pick (Braydon Coburn). If the Lightning do not get into the Eastern Conference Final, every non-division winner goes before Philadelphia, since Tampa had more points then all of them. The Lightning do have the Rangers’ first-rounder (Martin St. Louis), but that pick can be no better than 26th, as New York won the President’s Trophy. No one who loses in the first two rounds can drop behind them.

Clear as mud? Excellent.


1. Huge challenge for Detroit to win Game 7 on the road without Niklas Kronwall. The Jonathan Ericsson/Kronwall combo saw more of “The Triplets” at even strength than any other Red Wing defensive pair during the three previous road games.

The Lightning move east-west better than anyone in the NHL, but Detroit’s had points in this series where they’ve smothered it. Part of the reason is if you’re going side-to-side, it’s hard to get the puck through Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Another challenge is Detroit’s discipline with their system. “(The Red Wings) keep their ‘group of five’ pretty connected,” said one Eastern Conference coach. “They don’t have a fast defence, so they get up tight because they can’t chase. As soon as they lose control of the puck in the offensive zone, or realize they can’t get it, they get their forwards on top of you so it’s hard to break out.” They’ll have to be successful again with this in Game 7.

2. As Tampa fell behind 3-2 in the series, it was amazing to watch Steven Stamkos’ usage.

Using 11 forwards and seven defencemen in Game 6, coach Jon Cooper rotated Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette with Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, before settling on Killorn in the third period. It’s clear Cooper does not want to break up Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Palat. They are validating him, as Johnson has six of Tampa’s 15 goals in the series and saved their existence in Game 4.

Stamkos played just 13:38 on Monday and is squeezing the stick something fierce. You can see the stress on him, which is extremely rare. Jonathan Drouin, also out of the lineup, has been on for six man-advantage goals with Stamkos in the last two months, which may affect his efficiency.

Cooper trusts the guys he won with in the AHL, and he’s riding them.

3. Several of Dave Cameron’s peers were amazed at how calmly he handled the quick whistle that cost his team a goal in Game 6 of Ottawa/Montreal.

“I wouldn’t have been so relaxed,” one coach laughed. “The instinct is to lose it,” another added, “but when he saw how crushed the referee was, there was no point. What is that going to accomplish?” This coach made another good observation, that Cameron has a young team. If he loses his mind, does the team follow? The Senators controlled play the rest of the game.

4. One NHLer, watching that series, said despite all of Ottawa’s pressure, there’s a certain way you have to do it against the Canadiens — drive the middle and push the defence back. “(The Senators) don’t shoot for rebounds,” he texted. “They shoot to score from far out,” and that is “too easy for Price.”

We’ll see if Montreal’s next opponent takes an alternate approach.

5. Don’t see anyone complaining about Brooks Orpik’s contract after Game 7 of the Islanders’ series. Orpik played 11:56 even-strength against John Tavares in that game, the most any Capital matched against New York’s franchise player. Tavares did not have a single shot attempt.

6. During Calgary’s two games in Anaheim this season, only Ryan Getzlaf stood nose-to-nose with Sean Monahan more than Nate Thompson did — by 11 seconds at even strength.

Thompson is now practising after an injury and may be back, but will Monahan get a steady diet of Ryan Kesler, who had a fantastic first-round series? Jakub Silfverberg, who plays on Kesler’s wing, is also a strong defensive player, which increases the possibility of such a matchup.

The Ducks don’t really match defencemen as often, so the forward selections are more important to them.

7. One Duck on the Jets: “We could see how injured they were after Game 1.” Suffice it to say, they took advantage.

8. Expect KHL free-agent Artem Panarin to sign with Chicago as soon as Wednesday. Panarin, who led league champion St. Petersburg in scoring, chose the Blackhawks because he’s seen similar players thrive there.

Calgary, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Toronto all made strong pitches. Sounds like the Flames — who heavily pursued him — were closest, but with so many small, talented forwards already in position (Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau, Markus Granlund, Jiri Hudler), Panarin thought that might be too many.

Tom Lynn, the agent here, also represents Viktor Tikhonov, who is getting ready for an NHL return.

9. Last Friday, hours after Peter Chiarelli was introduced in Edmonton, he flew to Kelowna to watch Leon Draisaitl. With him on that trip was Craig MacTavish.

Chiarelli confirmed he asked MacTavish to stay, but wouldn’t expand any further. it will take time for this to play out.

According to a couple of sources, MacTavish didn’t see it coming and was hurt. One minute, you’re dancing in the hallways of a Swiss hotel at 2 am after winning the draft lottery, then you’re seeing it evaporate. It couldn’t have been an easy conversation between him and long-time friend Kevin Lowe, who helped recruit Chiarelli to Edmonton.

10. Chiarelli was also expected to talk to head coach Todd Nelson. My sense of all this is before the changes, the Oilers wanted Nelson to stay as an associate coach, even if he does not keep the main job.

The question is if he wants to do that. He’s been an NHL assistant before (in Atlanta), and it is believed he would rather run a bench somewhere else than fill that role again.

His work with Nail Yakupov did not go unnoticed and I can’t help but wonder if the visibility coming with Connor McDavid makes it a better call for him to stay, even if he doesn’t keep the main job. A rising tide floats all boats. Or so I’ve heard.

11. Chiarelli, asked if he shares the previous commitment to Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Yakupov. “I don’t have any intention to do something drastic. I’m not coming in guns-ablazing…It is very hard to find good players.” That’s as much as he was willing to say.

12. Chiarelli did not confirm, but it is believed he had at least one conversation with Toronto before ending up in Edmonton.

13. One final note on the Oilers: while Sean Burke is considered a serious candidate for the Maple Leafs’ opening, a couple of sources warn not to forget about the relationship between him and Bob Nicholson. There’s a Hockey Canada link. At this time of year, you never discount any connection.

14. Boston, was scheduled to interview Ray Shero and Paul Fenton for its opening this week, although current assistant GM Don Sweeney is a significant candidate.

The Boston Herald reported the Bruins asked for permission to talk to one of their former execs — Jeff Gorton, now the Rangers assistant GM. One thing about Glen Sather: he prefers to wait until after his team is eliminated before granting permission. Pittsburgh was interested in Gorton last season, but New York was still playing.

15. Wouldn’t be a shock if John Ferguson Jr., currently the club’s executive director of player personnel, also gets consideration here.

The Bruins have connection to Pittsburgh’s assistant GM, Tom Fitzgerald, who lives in Boston. The Penguins’ front-office is crowded and Boston’s is a man short. Could that be a match?

16. Pittsburgh President & CEO David Morehouse said last weekend that GM Jim Rutherford, coach Mike Johnston, franchise cornerstones Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would all be with the Penguins next season.

Whatever ends up happening, it was a smart statement, calming the hysteria and cooling speculation. Despite that, it is time for the Penguins to have a serious internal conversation about this duo’s future. You can look at four 2-1 losses and say, “Well, the defence was decimated,” which is true. But that ignores the bigger picture. The Penguins are 4-6 in playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup.

They’ve changed coaches and executives. They’ve redone the defence. You can argue that Kris Letang, now with a $7.25M cap hit, is as important to the franchise, especially after these playoffs. “You wouldn’t trade Malkin for another player making $9M, because that doesn’t help you,” one GM said. “But if you can get three strong pieces and a first-round draft pick, maybe you think about it.”

17. Malkin is a great player, but one capologist gave another reason why he’d at least think about it.

Rutherford was clobbered locally for the team’s appearance in salary-cap jail, but this executive pointed out Malkin’s ankle problem contributed. The centre missed eight of the team’s final 14 games. You don’t want to put him on long-term injury reserve if you can avoid it (and with fewer than 10 games to go, you can’t), but all of a sudden, your flexibility is destroyed by his cap hit.

He’s played 70 games once since 2009 (including 31 of 48 in the lockout-shortened year). He’ll be 29 in July. Could this get worse as he hits his thirties? Tough call, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it. Malkin has a no-move, so he’s got control, although they’re more of a hurdle than a brick wall.

18. A couple of months ago, I speculated on a Las Vegas expansion team being announced at the NHL Awards. That idea was kiboshed.

“Not the timetable,” said one source. What we’re more likely to see is the creation of a formal expansion process. It’s no surprise that various Seattle entities are making moves to get ready, as reported by ESPN’s Craig Custance.

Glenn Healy mentioned Ray Bartoszek’s interest back at the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, and added Jeremy Roenick was linked to a hockey operations position. You know Quebec City is going to be ready.

19. On Las Vegas: William Foley’s friendship with Wayne Gretzky is well-documented.

Murray Craven, who played 1,071 NHL games, is working with Foley. One of Craven’s former teammates is Scott Mellanby, Montreal’s assistant GM.

If Vegas gets a team (and I admit I’m openly rooting for it — come on, who doesn’t want that road trip?), that connection is one to watch, assuming Mellanby isn’t hired elsewhere first.

20. Before Craig Anderson, Corey Crawford and Ryan Miller reclaimed the nets, the average cap hit of the goalie who had played the most minutes for his playoff team was $3.13M, and the backup was at $2.23M. The separation in the Western Conference was within $150,000.

With one game pending, 25 different goalies appeared in the first round. That’s two more than the entire 2013 playoffs and three less than last year. So, what’s happening here?

One executive claims it has to do with coaches feeling there is absolutely zero loyalty to them. “You used to protect the goalie with the long-term, big-money contract because the team was invested in him,” he said. “Now, forget that. Look at the quality of guys getting fired. There’s no security. So it becomes, ‘Who gives me the best chance to win, today?’ That’s how you make the decision.”

21. As the NHL grapples with analytics’ place in the game, there is a theory you cut spending at the goaltending position, unless you’ve got a Carey Price. Sometimes that’s much easier said than done.

In the salary-cap era, three teams won the Stanley Cup with starters earning at least $5M — Pittsburgh (2009), Boston (2011) and Los Angeles (2014). (Dominik Hasek was a $4M backup for Detroit in 2008 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had a $5M salary rolled back to $3.8M after the 2004-05 lockout.)

Seriously, what’s the number that’s going to make Minnesota walk away from Devan Dubnyk?

22. In his end-of-season address, Blues GM Doug Armstrong re-affirmed his faith in the goalie tandem of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott.

It might sound crazy, but remember that going all-in on Ryan Miller didn’t work, either.

The thing about Allen is there are opposing goalie coaches and scouts who believe giving up on him so early would be a mistake. He is very talented, but has a history of struggling on the biggest stage — the 2010 World Juniors and these playoffs, for example. Can you get him past that, teach him to embrace it?

In a cap world, the most efficient way to win is by grooming your own picks through their experiences, good and bad.

23. Looking at Ken Hitchcock in the media conference and hearing him say he wanted to talk to his family first was a real reminder of what Todd McLellan said in San Jose. It sure looks like change will be coming.

Kirk Muller has another year remaining on his contract. If he is not the guy, it’s an interesting opening. Good team, but budget-conscious (with a big Tarasenko extension coming) and probably not looking to spend $3M on a new coach. Anyone who goes there won’t be the highest-paid, but will have a strong base.

24. As tweeted last week, the Sharks asked for permission to speak to Randy Carlyle.

Doug Wilson hasn’t made many coaching changes, but the last time he did — he went through a lot of names.

Another GM said he heard Wilson’s original list had something like 20 people on it. One potential stealth candidate is Rob Zettler, coach of AHL Syracuse. Zettler played with and coached for Wilson. He’d also have working knowledge of San Jose’s American League players.

25. Luke Richardson, long linked to Tim Murray in Buffalo, said last weekend he is ready to listen if NHL teams are interested in his coaching services.

Murray’s got a few connections that could come into play here. While in Ottawa, he interviewed Peter DeBoer in 2008. DeBoer came close to getting that job, even flying to Barbados to meet with Eugene Melnyk. (Apparently, that didn’t go so well.) Murray likes him. And, don’t forget he played a prominent role in hiring Paul MacLean, too.

26. Richardson played with Ron Hextall in Philadelphia, too. Damien Cox reported that Dallas Eakins will get consideration here.

I would be surprised if Benoit Groulx, who coached Claude Giroux at QMJHL Gatineau and won the World Juniors with Canada in January, did not get an interview.

27. Vancouver fans went from screaming that Willie Desjardins wasn’t getting enough Coach of the Year consideration to screaming about his line usage in the playoffs.

Mike Gillis would never reveal the information, but he always said there was statistical proof the Sedins dropped in efficiency if they played more than 19-20 minutes. Henrik averaged 18:49 in the postseason and Daniel 18:21. They were very good, and I do feel there was more to give, so I’m curious to see if Desjardins keeps this going in the regular season (it worked very well), adjusting in the playoffs.

28. You always look for philosophical changes in a new administration, and you are seeing them in Vancouver.

Under Gillis, players took no-trade clauses in exchange for below market contracts, but he did not ask them to waive. (Kesler asked out.) Under Jim Benning, we’re seeing some higher numbers and he’s not afraid to ask guys to go (Jason Garrison).

What happens this summer is likely determined by how ready he thinks Sven Baertschi, Adam Clendening, Frank Corrado and even a Brendan Gaunce might be.

29. Things did not work out for Cody Franson in Nashville. He was a good fit in Toronto, both on and off the ice. Could a reunion be in the works? (Will have more on the Predators next time.)

30. Will also have more about Toronto next time, but wanted to add this quote from assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Asked if the Maple Leafs would consider passing up on Mitch Marner in the draft because they already have smallish forwards like William Nylander and Connor Brown, Dubas disagreed.

“Here’s the way I look at it,” he said. “Right now, we aren’t good enough to be picky about smaller players. We need as many elite players as we can. If we get into playoffs and are too small, or overwhelmed, it’s easier to trade small for size than draft for size and trade for skill.”

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