SportsNet analyst and former NHL GM Brian Burke didn’t spare any words after the Red Wings dropped to fourth place in the league lottery on Friday night.
Despite having the best odds of the No. 1 pick overall and then likely selecting the consensus No. 1 prospect Alexis Lafreniere, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman watched on a video conference call from his home in Bloomfield Hills as NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announced the winner — a playoff-caliber team which loses in the first round of the play-in round scheduled to begin in late July or early August.
“This result is nothing short of a disgrace,” Burke said on Friday’s show on SportsNet. “This makes no sense. It should’ve been just the seven teams that weren’t in the play-in round in the lottery. Give the teams who need the most help the best players.”
Yzerman was gracious in defeat and took the high road when discussing the disappointing result from the draft lottery.
“We had an 18.5% chance of winning the first pick, so realistically I’m prepared to not be sitting here talking about the first pick,” Yzerman said. “Anything I say will be self-serving. They got to do what they got to do.”
Burke, one of the game’s most outspoken analysts who once blasted the Red Wings in a playoff series in 2002 for the physical treatment of Vancouver’s twin forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin (“Sedin is not Swedish for punch me, or headlock me in a scrum”), says he would be “screaming bloody murder” if he was a GM again.
“When we started doing drafts in pro sports, it was always in inverse order of finish so the worst team got the best player,” Burke said. “Then we went to a lottery because teams tanked. I support the lottery but to me, if you have a problem you gotta fix, you pick the smallest Band-Aid you can use to fix the problem.
“There should only be five teams in the draft lottery. The notion that a team that just misses the playoffs and picks as high as two or three or one is just crazy to me. I think the league gets almost everything right but this makes no sense to me. It makes our league really bad. It makes us look Mickey Mouse and we’re not Mickey Mouse.”
Burke predicted something like this might happen before the draft. He said it would’ve been bad enough if a place-holder team got into the top three but not No. 1.
“Detroit had 39 points at the pause,” he said. “You could have a team with 35 more points pick ahead of them. Detroit and Ottawa are both big losers. It’s a deep draft and they’re going to get a good player with their picks but if Lafreniere is the kind of player we all think he’s going to be, he should be on one of those two teams.”
Burke said he hopes the NHL considers amending the lottery rules in the future to prevent a playoff-bound team like the Edmonton Oilers from adding Lafreniere to a roster filled with top-three picks like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“I know for a fact there’s a number of GMs who agree with me,” Burke said. “My phone is blowing up tonight. I don’t get it. The league gets so much right and they can’t get this right. I’m guessing as Gary (NHL commissioner Bettman) and Bill fly back or drive back into New York City from the NHL studios, they must be wondering, ‘Is there a better way to do this?” because this is a real sore spot for the league.”