There’s no reason to jump off the bandwagon just because it’s being intentionally driven into the ground.
Tanking, the process of building a team designed to lose in order to garner high draft picks, was brought to the forefront by our own Philadelphia 76ers. Sixers’ president and general manager Sam Hinkie, in an effort to rebuild his middling, perpetually stuck-in-the-middle team, traded off all his valuable assets for young players and draft picks, and put his team in a position to be as bad as possible in hopes of obtaining a superstar via a top draft pick. Critics would say that Hinkie’s tactic of making his team as bad as possible was a disgrace to the league, but in actuality, Hinkie had no choice. What would have been the advantage for Hinkie to keep his team stuck in mediocrity, with no hope of becoming a title contender, no hope of obtaining a high draft pick, and no attraction to any potential free agents? Hinkie did what any GM in his position should have done: he tore his team down to the roots, allowing him the ability to build his type of team, with a plethora of young players, draft picks, and the potential to draft a superstar with a high draft pick due to his team’s poor performance. Tanking allowed the Sixers to have a ton of cap space to use for taking on bad contracts with draft picks attached, and to eventually cash in on marquee free agents. The Sixers have acquired or drafted exciting, high upside young players such as Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, and possess four potential first round picks this season to add more talent. Tanking has allowed the Sixers to build an athletic, cheap, young, high upside team, which with the additions of some fitting free agents, plus the development of the young players, has the potential to be a perennial contender. Bottoming out has given Sixers fans a semblance of hope after being stuck in mediocrity for over ten years. Rather than the perception that the national media portrays of fans who are upset with the poor product of the current Sixers, the fans are accepting and more hopeful of the Sixers future than they would have been had the Sixers stayed the course of mediocrity. Tanking is the way in the NBA, it is not a problem, it is not an epidemic, it is the correct way to go about rebuilding your team in hopes of acquiring a superstar talent to build around.
The hockey world has been enamored with super prospect Connor McDavid for years. This year’s 2015 NHL draft has been anticipated for years, due to the prospect of drafting McDavid, or fellow potential superstar Jack Eichel. In preparation of acquiring the next mega star, many middling, going nowhere teams decided to blow it all up, and sell off their established veterans for young players and draft picks. Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray took any asset with a semblance of value from his roster, sold them off for picks, and filled his team’s lineup with either young, raw players who are yet to develop, or older veterans who would not significantly contribute to the team’s success. He never explicitly said it, but anyone who knows hockey can see that Murray positioned his team to finish last in the NHL in order to guarantee his team a top 2 pick and the opportunity to draft a potential superstar in either McDavid or Eichel. Murray, in an interview with the New York Times, stated, in reference to Connor McDavid, “I watch him too much and think about him too much. I wish I could help myself.” Even the Sabres’ fans have embraced the tank, as their home fans cheer when the away team scores a goal, as they want to get McDavid or Eichel as well. NHL purists/cranky old fashioned hockey guys have criticized Buffalo’s ways, saying that their deliberate tanking has ruined the sanctity of the game. They couldn’t be any more wrong. Buffalo was mismanaged by previous front office regimes and has never won a Stanley Cup. In order to turn things around for the long term, Buffalo needed an overhaul. No marquee free agents have wanted to sign in the freezing tundra known as Buffalo, and the importance of a superstar on your team can not be understated. Buffalo’s only chance of building a contender is through the draft and trades, and acquiring young, potential rich talent. Buffalo could have continued to hamper themselves by signing mediocre free agents to inflated contracts, and stayed hovering in the middle of nowhere, going nowhere sector of the league, but that would be a terrible decision. Tanking has allowed Buffalo to finish last overall in the league standings, and after receiving the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, they are in a prime position to draft Eichel as a possible superstar for the future.
Tanking is not an issue in the NHL, nor is it in any other league; tanking is a way for rebuilding teams to turn their fortunes around, and to maybe become a title contender. The NHL and NBA are built on superstars, and cheap young talent, which are very hard to obtain. Tanking allows a team the chance to either draft a star, accumulate enough assets to trade for a star, or to develop a solid core to lead them into the future. Yes, there will be some abysmal games and terrible losses, but as horrific as tanking may be in the short term, the potential rewards and options that come along with it greatly outweigh the poor quality of play in the short term.
Critics of tanking in the NHL and NBA need to open their eyes and realize that no team can stay good forever. In order to succeed in the long term, teams need to develop young talent, and go through down periods. Tanking is not an issue, nor is it an epidemic, it is the perfect avenue to giving your team a plethora of options for a sustained, successful future.