A Proposal To Resume Play And What It Means For The Toronto Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 25: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference and Innovation Spotlight as part of the 2019 NHL All-Star weekend on January 25, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 25: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference and Innovation Spotlight as part of the 2019 NHL All-Star weekend on January 25, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t played since March.

There is one way in which the Toronto Maple Leafs – and the rest of the NHL – could resume the season.

Hockey fans around the world are asking the same question: how is the NHL going to be able to resume the season and complete the playoffs? And do it in a way that both makes sense and is safe for all involved?

I’ve been asking myself that same question over the last number of weeks and yesterday, while enjoying a series of recent Toronto Maple Leafs focused podcasts, namely Live Laugh Leafs (Yahoo! Sports), The Athletic’s Leaf Report, and The Steve Dangle Podcast (Sportsnet).

Where the respective hosts of all three shows held conversations on several of the rumored strategies the league executives are considering to bring hockey back, I was struck with my own idea that combined elements from all three shows and tweaked them slightly.

Before I present my proposal, I feel like I should note that while I understand the underlying reasons for the NHL’s insistence on pursuing these rumored strategies, ultimately the safest strategy would be to outright cancel the remainder of the season and the playoffs and wait for the world to be in a more stable situation.

Have an extended training camp/preseason period and work out a schedule that allows for some sense of normalcy while also adhering to whatever safety measures are still in place by then.

Layout and Safety

Under my proposal, the NHL would go forward with the idea of divisional host cities, one per division. For sake of example, let’s say the four cities are Toronto (Atlantic Division), Columbus (Metropolitan Division), Dallas (Central Division), and Edmonton (Pacific Division).

An advance team of NHL employees (who are confirmed negative for COVID-19) will go to each city two weeks in advance of anyone else, to arrange living situations for the teams and ensuring safety for every individual who will be involved with this process, including hotel staff, drivers (if needed) the players, team staffs, game officials, and select family members.

An impenetrable “bubble” will be formed, keeping everyone involved completely isolated from the outside world, and as such, players, staff and others involved will be permitted to designate a limited number of family members to join their quarantine. These individuals must test positive and spend time in seclusion before being permitted to join the bubble.

Once this process begins, the quarantine must be airtight, nobody leaves for any reason other than teams finishing out their games or being eliminated. If there is a confirmed case of players or their family members breaking the isolation orders, that player’s team will forfeit any remaining games and be penalized both financially and through additional measures, such as being moved back in the draft order.

Regular Season and Playoffs

The regular season as originally scheduled is done. It is already impossible to re-create the schedule of remaining games with the proposal for divisional host cities (the Leafs had six games of their 12 remaining against divisional opponents). However, to fulfill TV deal obligations and earn some league revenue, there needs to be something before the playoffs begin.

In addition to that, the players need time to get back into game shape and get re-engaged with the flow of play, so the proposal is as follows: teams (with expanded rosters) will have a training camp period of 10 days. After that, they will be scheduled 10 games each, which will not affect the standings. This is, essentially, an expanded preseason, but there will be stakes for every team.

Initial rankings for both the playoffs and the draft order will be determined by points percentage at the outset of this pseudo-regular season. The points percentage earned of the 10 games played will affect different things for each team, depending on where they currently sit in the regular season standings.

Excluding the 12 teams holding a playoff spot, there are 6 teams in each conference with a point percentage above .500. The two teams who perform the best qualify for the playoffs as wild-card teams.

Teams currently holding a playoff spot can not fall out of contention, but they can affect their seeding in the playoffs through performance. For example, should the Toronto Maple Leafs generate a higher points percentage than Tampa Bay, the Leafs become the #2 seed in the Atlantic Division.

The two conference leaders at the end of this 10-game span earn the right to choose which wild card team they want to play against in the first round.

Teams will have the option to forfeit playing if they choose, but the teams will pay a fine which the league claims as direct revenue.

Non-Playoff Teams Compete For Draft Odds

Here’s the part that gets a little complicated: under this proposal, teams that cannot make the playoffs are competing for slightly boosted odds in the draft lottery.

As stated above, the initial draft order is determined by points percentage. The three teams currently holding the best odds at a top selection (Detroit, Ottawa, and L.A.) will have their initial odds set to 24%, 19%, and 17% respectively. The odds for these teams as well as the others who are ineligible for the playoffs will then increase based on points percentage earned in the replacement for the regular season.

Teams in playoff contention are assigned their draft order based on regular season points percentage.

For spectacle and entertainment value, the draft lottery is done on the day of, and results are revealed live. Additionally, the trade market is re-opened for the duration of the draft, however, any players traded during this period are ineligible for play in the playoffs (should it still be ongoing when the draft occurs).

Next. Predictions for When the Season Resumes. dark

It’s not a perfect, foolproof plan, but I certainly believe it would be entertaining. (and should any league executives find this and want to go ahead with this idea, get in contact, I’ll let you know where to send the cheque!)