Earlier this week the NHL GMs met in Boca Raton for a series of meetings meant to improve the game. One tentative resolution, as first reported by ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun, is that the NHL will not release the list of exposed players prior to—or even after—the NHL Expansion Draft this summer. This revelation created quite the ruckus amongst fans and media alike, as almost no one expected the NHL to completely deny access to the hotly-anticipated list.
Hotly-anticipated is no misnomer. CapFriendly’s mock expansion draft tool just surpassed 30,000 user-created drafts since its November’s inception. Fan blogs across the web delved into extensive analysis on who teams should protect and expose. Commentary on every transaction so far this year always had the obligatory “how does this effect the expansion draft” question attached to it. Needless to say, the protected list of NHL players will be the hottest commodity come June.
And yet the NHL GMs have tentatively decided to permanently withhold that list, making it impossible for everyone outside the NHL GM community to stage their own mock drafts and analyze GMs’ decisions. The GMs surely have their reasons, but fans and the media have theirs in support of publishing the protected list. The following outlines both sides in an effort to understand the rationale behind both desires.
For releasing the list
The two main arguments for releasing the list are simple: to facilitate mock drafts and to provide context and analysis of both the draft itself and moves leading up to the draft. And more importantly to the NHL, both arguments produce increased exposure. Fans and media clamour for this information, and the NHL should enjoy the attention windfall that follows.
Moreover, it rewards those who follow the NHL closely enough to care about who teams protect and who they expose. The NFL and NBA all have an extensive mock entry draft culture that allows fans almost unlimited imagination as to which players go where. With an event as unique as the expansion draft, the NHL should not deny fans the opportunity to construct their own Vegas Golden Knights using an official list of players.
Against releasing the list
The two main arguments against releasing the list center on the GMs and the players themselves. One, the GMs do not want their decisions scrutinized more than necessary. Two, NHL players may not want the public to know who isn’t worthy of protection, or relatedly, the GMs do not want their players to know who gets exposed.
Protecting themselves against scrutiny may be the low-hanging fruit argument, but it merits attention. The NHL continues to announce NHL contracts without crucial details like amount, conditions, and whether there is a no-trade or no-movement clause. This is despite the popularity of sites like CapGeek, Capfriendly, and General Fanager. The argument is that fans do not need to know these details to enjoy the game, and that scrutiny begets negativity, and—more telling—criticism directed at GMs.
The second argument may have more heft. Players may not want to know that certain players in the locker room were protected while others were exposed. In a skill-based game where ego runs rampant, knowing that a team finds you dispensable may alter the relationship between teams and players. Moreover, players may not want others to know if a team finds them dispensable. In an environment with almost no privacy, players may want to cling to whatever confidentiality they can.
In the end, the pressure from fans and media alike shoud push the NHL to change its mind and release the list. The benefits outweigh the positives, and the increased exposure should be cultivated rather than ignored.