Tanking For Alexis Lafreniere? Former NHL GM Says Not On Jonathan Toews’ Watch

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Former GM and current Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke joined the NBCSports Chicago crew on Tuesday to discuss the latest NHL Draft Lottery.

When last Friday’s 2020 NHL Draft Lottery resulted in one of the eight placeholder spots (reserved for teams eliminated in the play-in round of the potential 24-team postseason) landing the first overall pick, many Chicago Blackhawks fans immediately began to salivate over the possibility of snagging potential superstar Alexis Lafreniere. To even have a chance at winning the ‘Lafreniere Lottery’ though, the Hawks must lose their best-of-five play-in series to the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs. Because of this, many fans are now debating whether or not the team should tank the series against Edmonton for a better chance at Lafreniere in the draft.

On Tuesday afternoon, former Stanley Cup champion GM and current Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke joined the Blackhawks Talk Podcast to discuss the idea of tanking for the No. 1 overall pick. First, Burke lashed out about the lottery process, calling it “nothing short of a disgrace” that the Detroit Red Wings (17-49-5, 23 points fewer than the second-worst Ottawa Senators) wound up with the fourth overall selection. Burke has held a strong opinion for many years on why the lottery should be restricted to only a select few teams, and he elaborated on his mindset behind it while on the podcast.

“This is a familiar rant for me because I think the draft lottery is essential,” Burke said. “But I think the lottery should be as small as it needs to be to discourage you from tanking, so that if you tank and there’s only five teams in the lottery, the best you can do is a 25 percentage chance. And I think this year it should’ve been seven teams. The teams that are not doing the play-in round, they should’ve been eligible and no one else. Right now, you have a distinct possibility that a 100-point team is going to get the best player in the draft, which is wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Burke does have a point, as there is no reason why the 40-win Pittsburgh Penguins should have a shot at selecting first overall. And to be frank, there are 13 or 14 other teams that should not have been in consideration for the pick as well.

When talking about the idea of purposely losing in the postseason, Burke mentioned that there is no way to tank in the dressing room level because the players respect the game and each other entirely too much. Burke also painted quite a funny picture while talking about what would happen if Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton suggested the idea of tanking to an ultimate competitor like captain Jonathan Toews.

Of course, the Blackhawks players are going to be trying their best to defeat the Oilers if this whole 24-team postseason comes to fruition. But if the team falls behind 2-0 in the best-of-five series, could that affect the rosters for the next game?

“That could happen, but I don’t think that’s … for a 12.5 percent chance, I don’t know,” Burke stated. “I know one thing: It’s really hard to tell your players that it’s important to win if you tell them it’s OK to lose. [If you say], ‘I know I told you years ago that it was OK to lose but now it’s important to win,’ good luck.”

For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@TalkinHawkey) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Locked On Blackhawks, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@LO_Blackhawks).