Toronto Maple Leafs: 3 Changes The NHL Should Make When It Returns

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 21: Mitchell Marner #16, Auston Matthews #34, and Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs wait for play to resume against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 21: Mitchell Marner #16, Auston Matthews #34, and Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs wait for play to resume against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: (L-R) Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins  . (Photo by Dave Sandford – Pool/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: (L-R) Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins  . (Photo by Dave Sandford – Pool/Getty Images) /

#3. Better Playoff Structure

Every Toronto Maple Leafs fan probably hates the current playoff structure. If you have to see the Boston Bruins one more time in the first round of the playoffs, you’re going to explode.

The current playoff system is structured so that the majority of teams are aligned against a divisional opponent in the first round. The top three teams in each division make the playoffs with the second and third seeded teams playing each other, while the winner of each division either plays the first or second Wild Card team.

In theory, it makes sense because it makes divisional games more important and heightens rivalries, but it unfortunately eliminates good teams too early.

For example, if one division is stronger than the other, it doesn’t give the better teams an advantage. Last year, the Boston Bruins were the second best team in the Eastern Conference but had to play the fifth best team, Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.

Although Conference alignment is necessary and important for travel schedules throughout the regular season, it doesn’t mean as much in the playoffs. Every team has a private jet and can get anywhere in under 5 hours.

The NHL should change their format so that the top-eight teams in each conference make the playoffs and then they’re reseeded from there. You may be the eighth-team in the Western Conference, but could end up being the 13th seed in a 16-team playoff system if the Eastern Conference is weaker.

But what about travel like I mentioned before? Well, that’s easy. Follow the AHL’s system and allow the better team to determine whether they want to play a 2-2-1-1-1 or a 2-3-2 Best of 7 series. If the teams are closer in proximity, the normal 2-2-1-1-1 system may work, but if the Florida Panthers have to play the Vancouver Canucks, maybe a 2-3-2 works better.

In today’s system, the regular season doesn’t mean as much and why play 82 games for it not to mean a TON? If you’re the best team in hockey and win the Presidents’ Trophy, you should be rewarded with playing the worst team that makes the playoffs.

If we used this tool for the 2018-19 season, here’s what the playoff match-ups would look like:

  • Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (16)
  • Calgary Flames (2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (15)
  • Boston Bruins (3) vs. Dallas Stars (14)
  • Washington Capitals (4) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (13)
  • New York Islanders (5) vs. St. Louis Blues (12)
  • San Jose Sharks (6) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (11)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs (7) vs. Winnipeg Jets (10)
  • Nashville Predators (8) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (9)

These playoff match-ups are awesome. The Lightning versus Avalanche would electric. Leafs would get to have a Canadian opponent for the first time since the early 2000s and we’d get a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh and Nashville.

How is this not better than our current system?

Next. Auston Matthews' Season Could Have Been Leafs Best. dark

The NHL stoppage should give them the flexibility of being creative and improving their league. Hopefully they listen, but until then, we can only dream.