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The NHL votes in favour of a decentralized entry draft

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Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
If it ain’t broke, fix it. Fans love the Olympics. Destroy it. Fans love the All-Star Game draft. Bury it at the bottom of the ocean. Fans love to make a summer pilgrimage to the draft. Decentralize it.
Okay, I don’t think the motivation was to spit in the face of the fans, but it seems like a side effect of this decision, just like it was with the last ones as well.
Let’s start with what a decentralized draft is. It’s what the NFL does. While the NHL has tables full of hockey ops personnel frantically running around trying to maintain their secrets while in constant communication with their rivals (centralization). The NFL has relied on keeping the key decision makers and analysts back in their home site war rooms to have the freedom to do research up until the last possible moment and debate their next moves as loudly as they like. Rather than getting those intriguing little moments when two GMs are talking to each other while covering their mouths from lip readers, we’ll get a wide shot of dudes on laptops and cell phones.
The opportunity for more informed decision making likely goes up for everyone but anything that cuts down on the opportunity to make hilarious mistakes or get pressured into agreeing to trades on the spot seems like a step deeper into the NHL being the most boring of the top North American sports leagues. Great sport, bad league.
The decentralized approach also seems like it robs the players being drafted of what has been a strong initial experience in the NHL. Having the team announce their pick and present the player with their jersey and hat and to get a photo with the people that wanted them on the team was something the NHL did well. There were some unique announcements that were special during the COVID decentralized draft but it was more a nice Plan B rather than what has worked best for the NHL.
In addition to the decentralized approach being beneficial from a working situation standpoint it does have a couple of other benefits that teams might be pushing for. There are some savings involved, although sending a hockey ops staff on a commercial flight and putting them up in a Hilton for a few nights shouldn’t be too much of a worry for teams that would have just flown teams around the continent for the past nine months.
There is also the fact that teams are pushing that the travel is too much heading into free agency and that seems like a goofy argument when the NHL could easily move its calendar around a little by pushing back free agency or flipping the date of the draft with the date for the NHL awards. There are other ways of creating a bit more time and given that teams and agents choose not to negotiate in season and don’t have that as an actual requirement, it seems like this is a nonsensical argument. Trade and free agent targets shouldn’t be something that teams are cramming on after the Stanley Cup has been awarded and if some teams are doing that, having them struggle through the critical roster construction days seems like a fair punishment, not something that needs to be accommodated.
For me and for most people this news is probably met largely with a shrug. It doesn’t change a whole lot for us. What does seem odd is that of all things to change with the draft this is the most self indulgent one for NHL Hockey ops department rather than addressing the long run times for the both the first round and second day of the draft which have an impact on the fans or reviewing the age of eligibility for the draft and if it is unreasonable to ask players to commit to an organization for the first eight years of their professional hockey careers to an organization that selected team whether they wished it or not. To be fair those are harder questions to find answers for, so I guess we’ll let the NHL have their decentralization.
Like Chris Johnston reported, it is unknown if and when the NHL is going to implement this new approach. Right now the draft is expected to be held in Las Vegas but that isn’t NHL chrome logo official yet either.

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