The Toronto Maple Leafs could be switching divisions.
One thing that people often forget to mention when complaining about the Leafs lack of playoff success during the Auston Matthews Era so far, is that they play in a division where it is almost guaranteed that they will have to open the playoffs against one of the NHL’s best teams.
The Leafs recently played back-to-back seven game series against the Boston Bruins, and instead of congratulating one of the NHL’s youngest teams for what are sure to be important, experience building losses, the team’s critics just seem focused on the losing part.
Well luckily, that may no longer be a problem.
Toronto Maple Leaf and an All Canadian Division
Due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, and the complete capitulation of the United States government of even giving the appearance of trying to fight it, the NHL season that should be called the 2020-21 Season is going to be weird, if it even happens.
The league was admirably competent in keeping players safe during its bubble playoffs, but a full season with international travel presents problems.
The Blue Jays – during months where the disease was waning – were not allowed to play out of Toronto and if the Canadian government is consistent, they will likely not approve international travel for the frivolous entertainment that we often take way too seriously.
Therefore an All Canadian Division is a distinct possibility, probably even the likely outcome.
And while this isn’t good news for the NHL or for fans who enjoy variety, it is definitely a good thing for the fortunes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Instead of playing in the NHL’s toughest division , they will be in its easiest. The new division will feature exactly one Stanley Cup Contender – the Leafs.
The Leafs were 8th overall under Keefe and then added T.J Brodie to their lineup. They were one of the NHL’s best teams last year in games where Michael Hutchinson did not play. Therefore it follows logically that they are going to be better than 8th this year.
Add in some internal growth and improvement from Matthews, Nylander and Rielly and you’ve got one of the NHL’s best teams.
The rest of the division? Not so much.
Winnipeg is a goalie-propped nightmare who will be lucky to make the Playoffs. The Canucks have a talented young core, a terrible GM and their depth was gutted this offseason. They are a borderline playoff team at best.
The Flames lost their best statistical defenseman from last season to the Leafs, and they already were not a good team. The Senators are a joke, and the Habs do not understand how to build a hockey team, as they have basically no star players and no chance of competing for a Cup. Nice combined goalie cap hit, however!
That leaves just the Oilers, who are a good goaltender away from winning a Stanley Cup. Star power is basically all that matters, and they’ve got that locked down. Not sure bringing back ex-Leafs Johnny Bower was the answer in net. (My mistake, they signed Mike Smith, Bower’s slightly older fellow goaltender).
The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t just be favorites in an all-Canadian division, it will be a disappointment if they don’t beat the second place team by 30 points. (I exaggerate, but you get my point). While I’d prefer watching a bigger variety of teams, I can’t say I’m going to feel too bad when the Leafs go a combined 21 and 1 vs Ottawa and Montreal next season.