By Mike Harrington
PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Murray expects the NHL Players Association to rubber-stamp proposed changes to the draft lottery when it meets in a couple weeks, so he's moving forward as if the rules have shifted in the middle of the game. And he's not happy.
According to Murray, the proposed compression of odds means the team with the worst record will have a 19 or 20 percent chance of getting the top pick, rather than 25 percent. At least for 2015, that team will only fall one spot if it doesn't win the No. 1 pick. But starting in 2016, the team with the worst record could conceivably pick as low as fourth.
(Translation: If Sabres finish last next season and lose the lottery, just as they did this year, they would still get the consolation prize of American standout Jack Eichel if they don't land Connor McDavid)
"Greedily I’m upset because I think we have more of a chance of next season being one of the lower teams, which I don’t like, but it’s just reality and I look at it that way," Murray said today during his draft-day meeting with reporters at Le Meridien, the Sabres' headquarters hotel here.
Murray was hoping the league would phase in changes beginning in 3-5 years and by then he hopes the Sabres are competitive and not in range of winning the lottery.
"I said if it’s three years out, it’s ’16 and I don’t care," he said. "I don’t plan on being involved in the No. 1 pick. The way it looks like it’s changing, as we’re going up -- which I assume we’re going to go up here in that time frame -- that our odds of winning the lottery will get higher. For me it was win-win if they stayed away from next year, but they didn’t."
The rules, of course, are to prevent tanking to get the top pick. The Sabres, of course, sure looked like they were doing some of that last season under Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston. And let's not forget, they finished 2-16-2 under Murray and Ted Nolan after the deadline deals of Steve Ott, Ryan Miller and Matt Moulson.
"I just think it affects the teams you see at the bottom now, so you know who you’re affecting," Murray said. "I’m not sure that’s fair. I think if you did it three years out, you know you’re affecting somebody. You’re affecting a bad team, but you’re not sure who that team is right now."
So with that, I got right to the point with Murray: Does he feel the league targeted the Sabres for these changes, largely for Regier's public pronouncement of suffering?
"I don’t think so at al.l I don’t think it was changed for us," he said. "I think we made it clear that we don’t intend to. We’re not tanking, I said. We don’t intend to pick No. 1 four years in a row. I said I actually didn’t care about ’16 as long as ’15 stayed the same. From my understanding from talking to Gary (Bettman), the concerns were not about the Buffalo Sabres."
You can click here to hear the full audio of Murray's interview today.
taggedNHL Entry Draft | Tim Murray