If there one common belief shared by fans of the New York Rangers, it is the assumption that if something bad can happen to the Rangers, it will.
Heading into NHL Entry Draft season, the overwhelming feeling among New York Rangers fans is that there is zero chance of winning the lottery. No matter where the team finishes, there will be only disappointment when the ping pong balls are drawn. The Rangers will move down in the draft, not up.
Not only that, there is a fairly large contingent of diehard Ranger fans who believe that the lottery is rigged. The belief is that the league orchestrates the lottery to the benefit of smaller market teams in an effort to make the league healthier financially.
It was announced today that the draft lottery will be held on April 9, the day before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. That means for Ranger fans, we are a less than a month away from a night of monumental disappointment.
There’s some reason to believe this to be true. Last season, with the Rangers missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, the Rangers finished eighth worst with a 19 percent chance of moving into the top three. What happened? Of course they lost out and moved down one slot to the ninth position. The teams that moved up? Montreal (aha…a Canadian conspiracy) and Carolina (aha…a small market team!) while Buffalo retained the top pick (another small market victory!).
Prior to 2014-15 the draft lottery was very simple and you had to finish as one of the bottom five teams in the league to qualify for the top pick. Although the Rangers missed the playoffs seven years in a row, they were never bad enough to qualify for a chance at the top pick.
2005 Entry Draft
There was one year when the anti-Rangers conspiracy theory really holds water. This was the season of the NHL lockout and the league decided to hold a lottery for the top picks that season. Based on playoff appearances and first round draft pick history from the prior three seasons, teams were allotted from one to three ping pong balls. The league then had a random drawing.
The Rangers were one of four teams with three ping pong balls. Of course one of the other teams with three ping pong balls won the grand prize. it was Pittsburgh (aha…a small market team!) and the prize was Sydney Crosby. Not only did the Rangers not get a top pick, they actually drew the 16th overall pick. To their credit, they traded that pick and their second round pick to Atlanta for the Thrasher’s first round pick (12th overall) and selected Marc Staal.
So, in reality, the Rangers have had only two shots at the top pick in the NHL Entry Draft due to lottery and in both instances they had no luck.
And if you think that the league has conspired with the Pittsburgh Penguins to reward them for tanking and drafting Mario Lemieux, consider this. In the 2003-04 season the Penguins finished last overall. The Washington Capitals finished third worst in the league, but in the lottery, they moved up two slots to get the top pick and selected Alex Ovechkin. Don’t feel bad for Pittsburgh. They did get to pick second and drafted a pretty decent center named Evgeni Malkin.