St. Louis Blues: NHL Draft May Be The Hardest Thing To Pull Off

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: The Toronto Maple Leafs management attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: The Toronto Maple Leafs management attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues and the NHL has a lot of worries and thing to iron out with regards to their offseason protocol. One of the main ones might be having a virtual draft.

The NHL is probably up to their waist with problems, issues and ideas how to solve this unexpected work stoppage due to the current pandemic. The St. Louis Blues are still hoping to defend their Stanley Cup, but, like the 30 other teams, they do have to plan on the future.

Part of that future is the NHL Entry Draft. As most fans know, this is a yearly process that sees each team draft prospects from college, Canadian or American Junior leagues or, sometimes, even from Europe and Russia.

This is how you build most teams. 12 of the Blues on the team when the season stopped, if you count Vladimir Tarasenko, were drafted by the team.

It is an incredibly important part of building a champion, but also maintaining one. As much as we dislike hearing about them, the Chicago Blackhawks were constantly pulling up new players from their system to replace the more expensive ones they had to let go via trade or free agency.

The NHL Draft is also a somewhat complicated process. As seen by the main picture, or if you’ve watched a draft, there are dozens of people representing each team at these drafts.

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Each team has a boardroom length table filled with coaches, scouts and various participants representing the front office staff. Of course, there are 31 general managers there too, all wheeling and dealing and making calls to see if trades can be made or picks swapped. It is all a very personal process.

Now, with the uncertainty about when any gatherings might be acceptable, professional sports are trying to figure out how to hold their drafts. One option is a virtual draft, though there is likely more than just one option on the table.

The NFL and NHL could not be more different. One is a multi-billion dollar entity with media contracts that would make one’s head spin and the other is considered a niche-sport with a passionate, but small fan base – we could argue that point, but that is neither here nor there.

The thing that will connect them now is that the NFL will likely be the guinea pig for the NHL and the NBA. The NFL refuses to change its calendar, so they will hold their draft as scheduled and in a virtual manner.

The problem with a virtual draft, in a vacuum, is that hackers are everywhere. Of course, these leagues possess the funding to keep your average hacker out, but what are the guarantees that someone might not splice into team feeds and start selling information?

Some might say just do it via teleconference. Anyone who has worked in radio or even just in an office setting knows how unreliable telephones can be at pivotal times. Teams have time limits when it comes to making draft picks. What if someone’s line goes down or a cell service is interrupted and the time goes out? What if the internet service goes down? These are real-world possibilities that have to be considered if you cannot have a centralized draft.

Then, beyond the logistics of doing a virtual draft, the order of the picks has to be decided on. If there is no finish to the regular season or even a playoff, how are the teams ranked? Will it be on the final standings when the season ended? Teams did not play an equal amount of games if that is the case. Will it be based on win percentage or point percentage? Again, how fair is that? The Blues are technically in first place in the Western Conference, but would be behind Colorado in certain percentage scenarios, thus getting a slightly higher pick.

Of course, there are other problems. Almost every team in the Metropolitan Division still had a shot of making the playoffs when the season was cut short? How do you decide who gets into the draft lottery since all non-playoff teams should get a ping pong ball?

Even more difficult, assuming no playoff happened, is what happens to those conditional picks? Lots of teams make trades with conditions such as if you make the playoffs the third round becomes a second or, maybe, if you get to the Final, the second becomes a first rounder, etc.

With no playoffs, would teams simply keep their pick and push the conditions to the following season? Would the team acquiring the pick just get the lesser of the two options?

Either would be a no-win scenario. For example, the Vancouer Canucks picked up J.T. Miller from Tampa Bay for a conditional 2020 first-round pick. If Vancouver missed the playoffs, that became a 2021 pick. The entire thing becomes a monumental mess if the season gets canned, as The Hockey News points out.

"In Scenario No. 1, let’s say the Canucks really like this year’s draft class because there’s a lot to like. According to the standings on the day the season ended, the Canucks were out of the playoffs. But if you applied points percentage, the Canucks would have been a playoff team and the Winnipeg Jets would have slipped out of the wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Jets, meanwhile, traded for hometown boy Cody Eakin at the deadline and that deal had a condition that the fourth-round pick in 2021 they gave up would become a third-round pick if either the Jets make the playoffs or they sign Eakin before July 5. Both teams would have a legitimate argument that they are not playoff teams, which would alter the complexion of those trades. The New Jersey Devils, who acquired the Lightning’s pick in exchange for Blake Coleman at the trade deadline, would have an argument that, based on their points percentage they are a playoff team, and that pick should go to them in 2020. – Ken Campbell, THN"

As Campbell points out, the decisions made regarding the end of this season and this season’s draft do not end this summer. Waves of this will still ripple out for drafts to come.

Rental players complicate things too, as shown in that scenario and more. Sometimes conditions are put on a player such as if they score so many goals or if they re-sign, then the pick changes and so on. Regardless of the cap situation, which is another kettle of fish, teams might not bring a player back or they might argue they can re-sign a player penalty free since they didn’t score the amount of goals or whatever. There will be loopholes galore.

Then you can circle back to the draft itself. Even if you simply have a teleconference or video conference, there problems.

If you cannot have a centralized draft, likely you would not be able to have team staff meet in one place either. That means you have to have a setup for the draft itself, a connection dedicated for team staff to communicate on which players to value or discuss things if a player slides down the board and also enough cell bandwidth to field calls from GM to GM regarding possible deals.

The NBA has it easy with only two rounds. The NFL and NHL have seven rounds.

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We all think connecting to people is so easy in today’s digital era. This is a logistical nightmare.

Hopefully things ease up sooner rather than later and regular drafts can be held at appropriate times. If not, then these could be some of the most interesting drafts in all of sports just because of all the issues that could happen.