Could the New York Rangers be #ActuallyBad Enough to Win the Draft Lottery?

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 12:21 am by Pat Keogh

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On paper, it seemed like the New York Rangers improved this
offseason. 

They traded their top-line center Derek Stepan for Anthony
DeAngelo and the 7th overall pick, but Tony D was considered
NHL-ready and the hope was that either the player taken with that 1st
round pick, Lias Andersson, or his counterpart taken at 21, Filip Chytil, would
slot into the depth chart high enough that New York’s problems down the middle
would be mitigated. Trusted Sportsbooks like Bookmaker suggested the Rangers would contend for a playoff spot this season, but what’s gone wrong? 

Couple that with the additions of Kevin Shattenkirk and
Brendan Smith, the buyout of Dan Girardi (some serious addition by subtraction
there) and the continued progression of guys like Mika Zibanejad and Pavel
Buchnevich and things were looking maybe not perfect, but still good enough to
be comfortable in a playoff spot. 

Instead, what actually happened was this: DeAngelo
got sent down to the Hartford Wolfpack as did Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson is
back in Sweden playing for Frolunda, Shattenkirk has found himself tethered to
Marc Staal, and Brendan Smith has been somewhat underwhelming. All of that, a
lot of which stems from baffling coaching and management decisions (a
discussion for another day, or another blog entirely), and some exceptionally
poor play have taken the Rangers to 27th overall in the standings and
3rd to last in the Eastern Conference, tied with Buffalo in points
and just one ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. 

Things are looking pretty bleak
in #Rangerstown, leading some fans to begin looking ahead to next season, which
of course entails getting the most out of what is generally understood to be a
stacked draft. The big prize there is either Rasmus Dahlin or Andrei
Svechnikov, either of whom would be game-breakers skilled enough to
hypothetically recharge the Rangies and propel them back into contention. It’s
a nice dream for sure, but the big question is this: even given how bad the
Rangers are playing lately, is it really possible?

How bad are the Rangers? 

To find out, first we need put into context what kind of team the Rangers are this season. Through twelve games they currently maintain
the 9th worst CF%, coming in at 48.61%. For reference the league
worst CF% currently belongs to the Ottawa Senators, who in 11 games have a
share of 44.07% of the shot attempts so far. Their GF% is similarly mediocre,
being the 8th worst in the league at 44.68%, well above Montreal’s
league-worst 31.825. As far as xGF% goes, they’re actually kind of OK with the 16th
worst in the league, a barely-more-than-break-even 50.03%. While their PDO of
98.65 is a little bit under 100, indicating that they may snap back somewhat,
it’s mostly due to their not-so-good save percentage, which is 90.81, as
opposed to their shooting percentage of 7.81. So on the whole while things are
bad, they’re not quite the worst, and certainly not quite good enough to snag
that 1st overall pick. However, it is worth noting that on
corsica.hockey’s predictions page, they’re forecasted to have only a 14.2%
chance of making the playoffs, with a median points prediction of 84 at the 27th
spot in the standings. Additionally, on the low end of corsica’s box and
whisker point projection plot, they could finish with anywhere between the mid
40s to low 60s, a scenario that would certainly make winning the draft lotto
possible. 

How do the Rangers compare to previous lottery winners?

Well, to start things off with
New Jersey last year, although they weren’t the absolute worst team in the
league (a dubious honor that actually belonged to Colorado) they were still the
fourth worst team in the NHL last season, putting them in contention for a
draft lottery win that they eventually pulled off (insofar as teams can
actually “pull off” a random selection win). In line with their place in the
standings they owned the 4th worst CF% in the league, 47.83%. As far
as goals and expected goals go they were both worse and better than their place
in the standings would indicate, with a 2nd worst GF% of 43.35% and
an xGF% of 47.81, the 5th worst xGF% in the league. They finished
the season, interestingly enough, with a PDO not dissimilar to the Rangers’, a
98.83 that was a 6.36 shooting percentage and a 92.47 save percentage.

The 2015-16 Toronto Maple Leafs 

Throwing it back to the 2015-16 NHL regular season, when
everybody’s favorite Toronto Maple Leafs won the draft lottery puts things in
a slightly bleaker perspective from the Rangers’ end. The Leafs finished the
season with 69 points overall, dead last in the standings (a small price to pay
for Auston Matthews, I think we can all agree). Interestingly enough, they
weren’t even close to last in CF% that season, coming in at 18th
worst with a CF% of 51.31 (shame they don’t play in the Corsi Hockey League).
Their GF% makes a little bit more sense – last in the league at 42.86%,
although their xGF% was middle of the pack at 15th overall and
49.38%. As far as PDO goes theirs was pretty terrible; they had the second
worst in the league combined shooting and save percentage, a breakdown of 6.36%
and 91.94% for an overall PDO of 98.3.

The 2014-15 Edmonton Oilers 

Finally we wind it back to the best of the worst – the year
the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery that gave them Connor McDavid.
Surprisingly that year they were not even the worst team in the NHL, beating
out both the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres to win the most coveted
player in the league since Sidney Crosby. That year they were only the 7th
worst team in CF%, with a 48.08% average share of the shots attempted on ice in
their games that year. As far as goals and expected goals go, they were
fittingly the third worst in GF% at 40.18% and 4th worst in the
league in terms of expected goals at 45.17. Their PDO was also third worst in
the league at 97.34, which when broken down into components was a 7.2% sh% and
a 90.14% sv%. 

What does it  mean for the Rangers?

Well, it indicates that fancy stats don’t matter, you’ve got to “just win baby”
when it comes to the draft lottery. For a more nuanced analysis, what a summary
review of the past three draft lotto winners demonstrates is that while you can
do well (read: not well) with a mediocre or even sort of alright CF% or xGF%,
you’ve really need a bad GF% and PDO in order to reach far enough down the
standings to put yourself in contention for the second most coveted prize in
professional hockey, all apologies to the Presidents’ Trophy. 

It would be a
huge coup for the Rangers to pull it off, given the fact that they’ve still got
talented players on the roster and could rebound quickly with a world-beater
like Dahlin or Svechnikov in the lineup. Playing about as bad as they’ve been
playing so far could get them close, but they really need to drop a few more
spots in the standings to put themselves in the running a la New Jersey,
Toronto, or Edmonton. There is of course lots of hockey yet to be played, so it’s
entirely possible the Rangers don’t come anywhere close to the 1st
overall pick, but there’s also a fair chance things go from bad to worse and
teams like Montreal rebound accordingly. It would take a near perfect storm for
the Rangers to secure a near perfect player, but given the way this season has
already gone, taking a serious step back may be the best way forward towards a
Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers.