In Nhl, Talk Of A Draft Lottery

Posted: April 01, 1990

Is it too cynical to suggest that some NHL teams wouldn't mind losing a few extra games next season in order to win the first choice in the 1991 draft? Perhaps, but consider:

* The poor club with the worst record next season probably would use the first pick to select the player destined to be the NHL's next superstar, Eric Lindros.

* In 1984, when a guy named Mario Lemieux was available in the draft, there were numerous accusations that Pittsburgh and New Jersey intentionally lost games down the stretch to try to get the No. 1 pick, which goes to the team with the worst overall record.

* A recent story in the Toronto Globe and Mail quoted an anonymous NHL general manager as saying that he knew of at least three occasions in more recent seasons when teams deliberately lost games in an effort to land the top choice.

As a result, there are stirrings in the NHL to institute an NBA-style draft lottery. In the NBA, any team that fails to make the playoffs is eligible for the top pick.

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke is particularly enamored of Lindros and - perhaps since the feeling is that no one could possibly finish behind Quebec next season - already has gone on record as supporting the lottery idea.

"It just makes so much sense," said a Flyers source. "It removes the cloud of suspicion entirely from the proceedings. It's worked well for the NBA."

Hartford GM Eddie Johnston said last week that the subject had come up at recent Board of Governors meetings.

"It's been discussed," Johnston said. "Each time it didn't seem to have enough support to get it done. But I'm not saying it couldn't happen."

Johnston listed Clarke and New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello as among the supporters of a lottery and himself and Islanders GM Bill Torrey as among the opponents.

But perhaps the biggest foe is Quebec, which could stand to lose Lindros if the draft rules were altered.

"We are absolutely opposed to it," said Jean Martineau, a Nordiques vice president. "We think the present draft maintains balance in the league. The last-place team ought to have the first pick."

When contacted later, however, Nordiques GM Maurice Filion said he would not comment on any talk of a proposed lottery.

*

You can also expect the NHL to take a long look at its high-sticking penalties in the off-season.

"Through Wednesday night's games, 120 players have been automatically ejected from games following high-sticking majors," NHL statistician Benny Ercolani said. "At the same point a year ago, the total was 96."

The rule states that a five-minute major and a game misconduct must be meted out to the offending player if there is visible sign of an injury, which usually means blood.

The guideline allows the referee little discretion. Even if he determines the high-sticking was accidental, the referee must banish the player if he sees any blood at all. But an accidental high-stick that produced, say, a broken jaw would bring just a two-minute penalty unless the player could convince the referee that his jaw was indeed broken.

The proposed Global Hockey League apparently has a novel means of trying to eliminate intentional high-sticking incidents - a penalty shot will be awarded to the offended team.

The Flyers had a pair of their prospects in this weekend's other NCAA Final Four - the collegiate hockey championships.

Boston College goaltender Scott LaGrand, the Flyers' fourth pick in 1988, compiled a 17-3 record this season with a 2.73 goals-against average and was the MVP of the Hockey East tournament.

Right winger Jamie Cook of Colgate was the Flyers' seventh pick in 1988.

Anti-Soviet feeling apparently hasn't diminished much in the NHL. Calgary's Sergei Makarov is the clear favorite for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the rookie of the year, but the candidacy of the 30-year-old former Red Army player has invoked numerous calls for a revision of the award's eligibility rules.

Strangely, the issue was not raised nearly as much in 1981 when Czechoslovakian defector Peter Stastny, another veteran of international play, won the award.

And speaking of xenophobia: Former Bruins coach Don Cherry, who has never missed an opportunity to question the character of Swedish players, was at it again during a recent Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

Commenting on the broken facial bone the Kings' Tomas Sandstrom suffered in a brawl-filled game with Edmonton earlier this month, Cherry had these words of consolation: "Sandstrom has a big mouth, and when you have a big mouth someone is going to shut it for you. The first thing a guy fighting Sandstrom ought to do is pull off his helmet and shield so he can see the real terror in his eyes."

There's not much question that the Adams Division has surpassed the Smythe as hockey's premier division. Kings defenseman Larry Robinson, who played many years with the Montreal Canadiens, thinks he knows why.

"In the Adams, teams dump the puck in and the game tends to be played in the corners. It's a grinders' kind of game," the defenseman said. "In the Smythe, the emphasis is on offense and puck control. What you end up is a lot of players zigzagging around the ice and not much defense."

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