This weekend the Arizona Coyotes will host the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The Coyotes and Sabres’ organizations have been linked for years, less as rivals and more as victims of a shared trauma of underperforming teams and on-ice struggles. Nothing may signify that more than when the teams met five seasons ago.
On March 26, 2015, both the Coyotes and the Sabres were at the bottom of the standings with the grand prize at the draft being Connor McDavid. The player set to go second overall was Jack Eichel, who was also seen as a can’t miss center, though not at the same level as McDavid.
The Coyotes would win that game in overtime by a score of 4-3. As the Coyotes won the game with an overtime goal from Sam Gagner, Sabres fans in the crowd cheered, happy that their team lost and thus more likely to win the NHL draft lottery.
Needless to say, the Sabres fanbase cheering when their team lost because it helped their draft lottery odds weren’t well received. Many people took this as the outcome of a draft system that rewards team tanking to get a higher pick and argued for other systems like the Gold Plan.
Then-Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber said in an interview “To compound things, you have your home fans cheering against you. Again, I’ve never been a part of that. Obviously, what doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger, I guess. But this is a whole new low right now.”
The results of this game are still being felt. Neither team would win the lottery and Connor McDavid would go to the Edmonton Oilers. Buffalo would draft Jack Eichel, who has proven to be good, although nowhere near the generational talent that McDavid is. Buffalo would go on to win the draft lottery in 2018 and draft defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The Coyotes would draft third-overall and select Dylan Strome, who last season was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks along with Brendan Perlini.
Since the infamous incident, the NHL has slightly changed the system having the top three picks be decided by lottery since 2016. And while the Coyotes record that season was 24-50-8, the Detroit Red Wings have a 15-46-4 record in 65 games, without a generational player like Connor McDavid, no offense to Alexis Lafreniere.
Neither team has made the playoffs since that infamous game. The Coyotes came close last season, and they may finally make it to the postseason this year. The Sabres are sixth in the Atlantic Division, and with 66 points they are eight points out of a spot.
The article previously incorrectly stated that the lottery format hasn’t changed since the draft.
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The Sabres and the Coyotes will be meeting for the final time this season this Satruday at Gila River Arena. If you are interested in going please check out our StubHub link here.
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