Anti-Tank: A single elimination tournament for NHL Draft order

Anti-Tank: A single elimination tournament for NHL Draft order


TournamentSo there has been a bunch of discussion lately about tanking in the NHL. Seems pretty clear that this has happened before and is happening again this year.  Puck Daddy doesn’t mind it.  Grantland’s Sean McIndoe calls it a ‘disastrous situation’ and has some suggestions including one (Option 11) for a postseason tournament.  The idea of a postseason tournament is nice in theory but I wanted to sit down and see if it was possible to build a tournament which gave worse teams better odds of winning the tournament.  So I set out to put together a concrete proposal for a tournament.  Though it would clearly need NHLPA approval, that tournament could run concurrently with the Stanley Cup playoffs.  It might even be good to have it start after a small layoff when there are fewer games per night.  Sponsorship might be fun: The Second Cup, anyone? Or the Last Chance Cup sponsored by the New York Lottery.

Below is the full proposal for a single elimination tournament to determine the first round NHL entry draft order.  The idea here is to award the first pick in the NHL draft to the team that wins a tournament.  I’ve laid out the full proposal in the pdf below.  The key to the process is to design a tournament that will have the highest probability of winning going to the worst team.  That takes some rethinking of the usual tournament design.  This proposed tournament is represented in the graph at right where the worst team is listed as 14, the second worst is 13 and the best team (to not make the playoffs) is 1.

  • Draft order is determined by how far a team progresses in the tournament.
  • There are guarantees that the worst team will get no worse than the 3rd pick, the 2nd worst team no worse than the 4th pick.
  • Games are played at the rink of the lower seed, again to provide worst teams with better odds of progressing through the tournament.
  • Draft ordering could be different for rounds beyond the first.
  • It is possible to extend the model to tournaments for 15 or 16 teams when/if expansion occurs.
  • There would be additional revenue from ticket sales and TV rights.
  • Playoff OT rules apply though I would be open to the possibility of using the shootout to determine a winner if it would benefit worse teams and I suspect that it does (unless you’re NJD circa 2014).
  • Players eligibility for the tournament is the same as for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As McIndoe noted in his Grantland piece there are some potential issues including questionable integrity of games.  One remedy might be to consider monetary incentives  — new Honda’s for every member of the winning team, maybe — created for players by rewarding players and teams financially for continuing to win.  There are some tiers here for teams and so it is possible that a team in the 8th worse spot might ‘tank’ for the 9th spot.

Here is a pdf of the proposal with some additional verbage.



By | 2015-04-10T16:49:59+00:00 April 8th, 2015|Categories: Draft, Empirical Sports Blog, Hockey|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Paul Yaremko April 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Interesting concept Michael. I can can an allure for the league to generate more revenue. I’m not a mathematician but I do think that the number 1 seeded team would still have better odds of winning such an event. The two highest rated teams to be eliminated from the playoffs this season had 94 pts each versus Colorado at 48. Stands to reason that The Islanders and the Lightening would be far more competitive. How do you slant the tables to give the worst team competitive equality? I can see that the leagues worst team joins the event much later however they still have to compete against far superior teams. In my mind the reward would go to the best team ie. the Lightening or the Islanders as they are superior teams. Those teams missed out of the playoffs due to in season injuries not for lack of talent. The draft lottery or some form of draft event is suppose to help the bottom feeders if you will. This format seems to give stronger teams a better chance at collecting the next big prize.

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