New York Rangers: Moving Up in the Draft

With only eight games left in the season, the New York Rangers have the 10th worst record in the league.  What are the odds of moving down in the standings and up in the draft?

The odds of the Rangers moving into the rarified atmosphere of a top seven draft pick are very slim.  While not mathematically impossible, the Rangers have no chance of catching the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres or Vancouver Canucks. The odds are slightly better with the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, but it would take a miracle to catch them.

The teams Ranger fans should focus on are the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Islanders.  There are a number of factors to take into consideration including home and away schedule and strength of competition.  The x-factor is when teams clinch playoff spots and begin resting regulars to prepare for the post-season. Catching all of these teams means the Rangers would end up with the 6th pick in the draft.  What are the odds?

New York Islanders

The Blueshirts are tied with the Islanders at 72 points but win the ROW tiebreaker. The Islanders have the most home games of any team with five.  Four of their remaining games are against teams with playoff consequences. They have only one remaining game that could be considered meaningless (no effect on playoffs or draft position).  While struggling lately, the Islanders are coming off a big win against the Penguins and they mounted a spirited comeback before losing to Tampa so perhaps they are ripe to start a streak.  Then again, only the Islanders can score six goals against Tampa and lose. At any rate, the big game for Ranger fans is the one remaining game between the teams on March 5th.  It could have huge draft implications.

Chicago Blackhawks

If the Blackhawks keep losing they could pull another fast one on the rest of the league and steal a top lottery pick.  They are good at that considering that in two straight years they came away with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  Chicago actually won the ping pong ball lottery in 2007 when they moved from fifth to first place and drafted Kane.

Chicago has only seven games left (the fewest)  with three at home.  They only play one non-playoff teams (the Islanders ), but they have the potential to end their season with three out of four games in the meaningless category.   With only two wins in their last ten, the Blackhawks are in full tank mode.  Chicago lost 5-2 to the Canucks Thursday night.  They sat Toews with an “upper body injury” and started backup goalie J.F. Berube.  They then lost 5-2 at home Thursday to a Vancouver team that had lost seven games in a row, scoring all of seven goals in those losses.  Hmmm.   By losing and the Oilers winning, the Hawks moved into the bottom seven.  Tanking conspiracy theorists have reasons to be suspicious.  That will be confirmed if they lose all of their remaining games.

Edmonton Oilers

Although eliminated from the playoffs, the Oilers have shown signs of life with a winning record over their last ten games and sit only one point worse that the Rangers.   Five of their remaining eight games are at home.   After three tough games against the Kings, Ducks and Blue Jackets, their schedule gets much easier including two more games against the Canucks. The Oilers are an unpredictable team and have the firepower and ability to upset. It could all come down to their last home game against Vegas.  An unexpected win against the Golden Knights as they rest for the playoffs could be huge for the Rangers.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings have the most ground to make up on the Rangers (seven points), but the most potential. Half of their last eight games are at home. Their schedule is the softest of all of the Rangers’ rivals with five of those games against non-playoff teams.  Coming off a ten game losing streak, the Red Wings upset the Flyers and outplayed the Capitals in a 1-0 loss  and could start a revival that would really help the Rangers.

The Rangers

Of course, none of this means anything if the Rangers continue to win.  In their favor (for moving up in the lottery) is the fact that seven out of their last eight games are against teams ahead of them in the standings.  Also, five of their remaining eight games are on the road where they have been awful.  All things considered, it is possible for the Rangers to lose seven out of eight to end the season.  The key games to watch are against Buffalo, at Carolina and in Brooklyn.

One word of caution. The Carolina Hurricanes are only three points better than the Rangers.  if they finish badly they could slip down in the standings pushing the Rangers to 11th worst overall.

No one wants to end the season on a losing streak, but it could mean a draft position the Rangers haven’t seen since 1999.   According to tankathon.com, staying in 10th place gives the Rangers a 4.5% shot at getting the top pick with a top three selection at 14.4%.   Moving up to 7th place gives them a 6.7% shot at number one and a 20.9% chance of a top three pick.  That’s a significant difference.

Predicting the Future

Taking a very simple formula, here is a projection of where we end up if all of these teams lose to teams better than they are.

6. Chicago        69 points  29 ROW
7. Detroit         73 points  26 ROW
8. Rangers       74 points  30 ROW
9. Edmonton   74 points  31 ROW
10. Islanders   80 points  32 ROW

This  formula means that the Rangers will go 1-7 down the stretch.  Does anyone see that happening or at least the team stealing a point in a three-point game?   Upsets are the major factor and will have a huge impact on the final standings.   What is clear is that it will go down to the wire. Ranger fans, you know who to root for.