The Lottery Odds Difference

Even today in late March, with the playoffs officially out of the picture, and another long, stress-free summer upcoming on Broadway, people have taken issue with the “oh good” responses to the New York Rangers losing hockey games. “The culture,” they might say. Or maybe “it’s never good to lose a game.” Or the always fun, “these games will have meaning next year” despite the months without games and potentially drastic player changes to the lineup.

Here’s the thing: The Rangers losing hockey games is objectively good. There’s almost no debate at this point. The team isn’t making the playoffs and the ideology that a few useless wins in April will somehow make the team better next year is a fallacy.

To break it down, let’s go to the raw lottery percentages, courtesy of Tankathon. We’re going to ignore the odds on 1-3 since it’s either impossible or really unlikely the Rangers will find their way into those positions. By the same reasoning, we’re not going to look at 9-15.

The percent chance of getting the top pick is 18.5%, which is a big jump from the 9.5% that a 4th place finish would bring, but it’s still less than 1-in-5 odds. That said, Colorado (who own Ottawa’s 1st this year) would be guaranteed at least 4th overall.

At 5th, the Rangers would have better than 1-in-four odds at a top-three pick. That’s an enormous boon to a farm system that is in desperate need of elite talent within the organization’s wings. Aside from Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andrew Miller, and Nils Lundkvist (in that order) there’s not a lot of elite potential out there.

Adam, Tobias, and Alex have already started gearing up for the top-30 countdown for this year’s draft — of which the Rangers have at least two selections in the first round but could have as many as four — but the most valuable one is going to be the Rangers’ own selection. And it’s no surprise why.

The conversation that has manifested itself in a vocal part of the fanbase is that losing these games will somehow hurt the team’s culture. That the team will get used to — and like? — losing games, and not have the fire and drive needed to win. I will say that even in these losses the team has compiled over time, David Quinn’s team has not shown a lack of fight or never say die attitude, and you really shouldn’t be worried about things that don’t have a tangible downside. You should be worried about those slim percentage margins from keeping the Rangers away from the best shot at a top-three pick. And even then, it’s all about getting one of the top two.

The Rangers have gotten some help in recent days, and sit firmly in 5th place from the bottom (26.1% at a top-3 pick, and 8.5% at the top overall pick). With just 23 ROW on the season, the Rangers have the “tiebreaker” over the teams around them to fall even if tied in points.

So remember: Losses are good, points are bad, and regulation wins are the biggest enemy out there.

*This article was written on 3/29 so any lineup adjustment have not been factored in.