"Tanking" implies losing on purpose. Whether it's players underperforming, coaches using the wrong players or strategies, or management making moves to make the team worse, it's done with the intent of finishing lower in the standings and getting a higher draft pick. Draft lotteries were invented to reduce the chances of this strategy working. It was done more often in other sports, where high draft picks almost always become impact players right away. The Indianapolis Colts' "Suck for Luck" season is one of the most recent examples.
The Red Wings did not tank to get Steve Yzerman, and there are two obvious reasons why: 1, the Wings had been terrible for almost two decades, making the playoffs twice in 17 years and only winning one series. They didn't lose on purpose in "82-'83, they just couldn't win. 2, the Wings were heavily targeting local product Pat LaFontaine with the #4 pick, but he went #3 to the Islanders. Yzerman was the consolation prize.
Tanking has been around for much longer than salary caps. I think it's tougher to do today, between the cap and roster/player movement limitations.
Also, I think your "ready age" numbers are considerably off. http://www.sbnation....es-age-analysis
So the colts losing the sexond best qb in football to injury had nothing to do with why they were bad. Teams have rebuilds like buffalo but even if they're bad I wouldn't consider it tanking. No coach or players would ever intentionally lose.
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