Toronto Maple Leafs: Is the 2020 Stanley Cup the Hardest Ever to Win?

Toronto Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are part of the 24-team post-season. If they make it all the way to hoisting the Stanley Cup, it will be a harder path than usual.

When the season was paused back in mid-March, the Toronto Maple Leafs (and their fans) didn’t know what that meant for the rest of this campaign or the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Would the season resume, with teams playing all 82 games?
Could there be a way that playoffs would still be scheduled?
Was the Stanley Cup going to be awarded this year?

We now have some of those answers, as the league is continuing to move forward and progress through their Return to Play Plan.

The Path Through These Playoffs

A scheduled start date for this post-season has yet to be determined and there is still a chance it may not happen at all. If it does, the format will be unlike any other throughout NHL history.

Looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs specifically, and their path towards the Stanley Cup, this revised structure presents a whole new set of challenges that the team wouldn’t otherwise have to face.

Toronto was already sitting in a playoff position when the league paused operations, whether based on traditional rankings (7th in the East) or points percentage (8th in the East).

Yet, with this new post-season format, the Maple Leafs are forced to battle through an additional round just to get into the more traditional 16-team playoffs pool.

The Leafs will faceoff against the Columbus Blue Jackets in their Qualifying Round. Each conference has eight teams (four rounds) involved at this stage, with the clubs winning their best-of-5 series advancing into the next one.

Re-Seeding Plays a Factor, Too

With re-seeding being re-introduced into this year’s post-season, Toronto will maintain the 8th place ranking from the East for as long as they’re still part of these playoffs.

With each round they hope to win, there is a high probability that the Maple Leafs will be one of the lower seeds remaining amongst the teams involved in the next set of match-ups.

In a traditional bracket format, without re-seeding, parity tends to take effect along the way with more comparable teams meeting within each proceeding series. But that’s not the case this year.

If every underdog team from the Eastern Conference loses their qualifying round, Toronto will sit in the last possible position on that side. They’d then face the highest-seeded team remaining, with each round they make it to.

It will be an uphill battle the whole way for the Maple Leafs.

More Games Than Usual

The post-season format we’ve become accustomed to includes four rounds, each being a best-of-7 series. All of which will still be included in this year’s playoffs, but with an added initial challenge for a team like Toronto.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs become the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, and do not lose once on their way towards hoisting it, it will take them 19 games to get there.

On the other end of that spectrum, if they are forced to play every possible match in order to be victorious through each round, then they’ll be participating in 33 games these playoffs.

To contrast with the more traditional tournament structure, the least any team plays would be 16 games and the most required is 28.

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So, whether it’s that they have to play their way into the 16-team playoffs, they’ll be forced to compete against the best every series, or more wins are needed to achieve the same prize, the path towards this year’s Stanley Cup is anything but smooth for the Toronto Maple Leafs.