I tweeted about this earlier but figured I’d expand on it here.
The Red Wings will host the New Jersey Devils to close out the regular season on April 9th. As of right now, the two teams are separated by a point, sitting in 28th (New Jersey) and 27th (Detroit) place in the NHL standings.
Per the playoff probabilities chart at Hockey Reference, that’s likely where they’ll finish, with the the Wings at 79 points and the Devils at 75. Flip a couple games around, though, and it’s not hard to see the teams coming into that last matchup tied in the standings.
The Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes aren’t going to rise any higher than the 30th and 29th they currently occupy, or first and second come draft time when the standings are flipped. For draft lottery purposes, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights are going to get slotted into the third slot. The Wings and Devils could enter the last game of the season battling for the fourth overall draft pick (pending any surprises at the aforementioned draft lottery).
This leads to an interesting position if you’re the Red Wings (or a Red Wings fan): Would you rather win the last-ever game at Joe Louis Arena or get a higher draft pick?
Okay, this is a purely mental exercise. The team isn’t going to lose a game on purpose. Even if they were, it’s entirely possible the last game of the season won’t matter in the standings. But, for the sake of discussion, lets say it does.
I’ve been calling for a tank for most of the season but this is still a hard question for me to answer. Ideally, they’d have dropped a bunch of games leading up to this one and already have the fourth pick locked up. Then they could come out and have a feel-good win to close the arena without costing anything.
Of course, if we’re talking ideal scenarios, it’s that they win the last game of the season and then win the draft lottery no matter what their final spot in the standings is.
Looking at the draft pool, the guys available in this range are all pretty similar. Slipping from #2 to #3 or #4 might be a noticeable difference but from #4 to #5 isn’t quite the drop.
As such, I say I’d rather see the Joe get closed out with a win.