As playoff hockey roars on into the second round, the Islanders faithful are back in that somewhat familiar position of waiting around for the NHL Draft. And with the lottery set to take place this Saturday night, the Isles know to a virtual certainty the ping pong balls hold no surprises for them.
The Islanders have the worst chance of moving up and grabbing the number one pick in the draft -- a 0.9 percent chance, to be exact. So while the Avalanche (18 percent), Canucks (12.1 percent), and Golden Knights and Coyotes (10.3 percent) wait around with bated breath for the right to draft Nolan Patrick, the Islanders know that they'll likely be picking 15th, saddled with the distinction of being the first team on the outside of the postseason looking in.
That doesn't mean much, though. In fact, the Isles' sprint to the finish that fell just short of the playoffs meant far more than any delusions of NHL lottery grandeur.
The Islanders aren't on the verge of a full rebuild. They're trying to do something much harder than tear it down and draft blueprints for the future: They're trying to take that step from the periphery of hockey's toughest division and make the jump to perennial championship contender. It's a leap they couldn't quite master this season, but with that run that came up just short, they may have ensured the pieces that help them make that jump stick around to finish the job.
A competitive 2016-17 campaign was far more important to uncover that Doug Weight may in fact be the coach the Isles have been searching for the last two decades. And convincing John Tavares to stay put for the next eight seasons beyond 2017-18 is certainly going to be an easier sell if the captain believes he can bring a championship to…somewhere on Long Island.
And to that last point, it's a lot easier to get lawmakers and land owners to let you build a hockey arena to house a good team than a bad one. Fans who were around in the late '90s can attest to that fairly quickly.
So in a relatively shallow draft, with the Isles all but locked into their draft position, there's no sense to lament what could have been had the Isles never recovered from their pre-New Years nosedive. Even had they ended up picking fourth or fifth, there's no guarantee the Isles would have hit on a future core piece.
In fact, in shallow drafts, sometimes that's the worst place to pick. Sometimes those mid-first round picks can yield a steal more easily than relying on a bigger prospect name that may have some glaring holes in his game.
This is all to say that the Islanders don't need lottery luck, which is good, because they don't won't get it. What they do need is for things to break their way in JT and arena negotiations. So if you want to keep your fingers crossed for something, do that instead.