Did the Rangers get screwed out of drafting Sidney Crosby in 2005?

The NHL Pause as it is starting to be known has certainly brought out the best in many writers. With the recent news of postponing the NHL Draft and the surrounding uncertainty of how to place teams, Steve Kournianos did a great piece for the Sporting News on the 2005 draft. What’s so special about that year? Aside from wunderkind Sidney Crosby being the top prize, it was the first draft after losing a full season due to a lockout.

Everybody gets a shot

Unlike today’s draft lottery where only teams that miss the playoffs get a shot at the first overall pick, everyone was given a chance in 2005. Yes, there was some weight to it, but also no guarantees that the team in dead last could pick no less than 4th. Of course, no one actually finished last because the entire 2004-05 season was cancelled.

Lindros (Getty Images)

The NHL weighed it on a team’s number of playoff appearances in the three seasons prior and first overall picks in the last 4 drafts starting with 2004. That meant only the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Sabres and Rangers qualified having no appearances and no 1st overall pick in that span which granted them three lottery balls. Then any team with one appearance or one 1st overall pick received two (10 qualified) while the rest got just one (16). All and all, there were 48 balls with the top 4 teams having a 6.3% chance of winning the lottery. If you had two balls in the machine it was a 4.2% chance and one meant 2.1%.

Get out that Screw the Rangers Button

The first question I raised when I heard about this weighted system was “why only go back 3 seasons?” If you are into conspiracies, you will find the Penguins did miss the playoffs those three seasons, but lost in the Conference Final in 2001. Meanwhile the Rangers had missed the playoffs for 7 consecutive seasons, and don’t get me started on having just one first overall pick in their history in 1965 (Andre Veilleux).


As for the Sabres, well they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 and also made the playoffs in 2001. The Blue Jackets and the Rangers probably should have each been given 5 balls apiece since Columbus was an expansion franchise in 2001 and had never made the playoffs. Instead, they chose to stop at three prior seasons in hopes of saving the Mario Lemieux owned Penguins.

It was no secret back in the early 2000s that the Penguins were a struggling franchise with an uncertain future long before the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. The team was purchased by Lemieux in 1999 from federal bankruptcy court, but it was a colossal failure on the ice and was already forced to trade expensive stars like Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev and Ron Francis.

Steve Kournianos

The Rest is History

AP Photo

In the end the Penguins miraculously won the NHL lottery that year. The Blue Jackets would pick 6th, the Rangers and Sabres got shafted and selected 12th and 13th respectively. New York did choose wisely by selecting Marc Staal but to this day it strikes me funny that the franchise on the brink of bankruptcy won the lottery. It was like a touch of God.

Editor’s note: The Rangers actually had the 16th pick and traded that plus their 2nd to the Atlanta Thrashers to move up in the draft to 12.

Regardless that there were witnesses in the room it wreaks of unfairness to me. The Rangers who had missed the postseason for 7 years, were not only deprived of a better advantage, but no reassurance to at least pick in the top 5. And since that draft, the Penguins have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 3 times, including 4 years after Crosby was gifted to them. Meanwhile the Rangers drought is at 26 years and counting.

Hey! Maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me so much if the Rangers would have rightfully been awarded Eric Lindros in the summer of 1992. Well, that’s just another story that will have to wait kids.

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Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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