With season officially done, Leafs can look ahead to possible return, Columbus series — Toronto Sun

Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs record is safe. Read More

With season officially done, Leafs can look ahead to possible return, Columbus series — Toronto Sun
By Terry Koshan

Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs record is safe.

For now.

With the news — which was expected — on Tuesday afternoon that the 2019-20 National Hockey League regular season is over, Auston Matthews’ charge for the Leafs’ franchise goal-scoring mark will have to wait until the 2020-21 season.
Vaive’s 54 goals in 1981-82 will remain the most in team history.

When the NHL went on pause on March 12, Matthews had 47 goals in 70 games, with 50 a true probability and a shot at Vaive’s record perhaps a little more difficult.

Matthews will score 50 at some point, and we would bet he eventually breaks Vaive’s record. And not that Matthews would require it, but he can take solace in the fact he led the Leafs in scoring with 80 points, the first time since he was an NHL rookie in 2016-17 that he finished a season as the Leafs’ scoring champ. In the two seasons in between, Mitch Marner led the Leafs in scoring. Count on one of the two finishing atop the Leafs for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, the confirmation of the conclusion of the regular season was one of several highlights in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s return-to-play announcements from the comfort of his own home on Tuesday. In a following interview on the Tim & Sid Show on Sportsnet, Bettman said there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” for the NHL as it puts plans in place to return in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

It’s expected the NHL will begin Phase 2 of the return to play in early June, with players moving back to their home facilities for voluntary, small-group, on- and off-ice training.

Phase 3, if the green light is given by medical and civil authorities, would include formal training camps, but not earlier than the first half of July.

Phase 4 would include what players and fans have been pining for since the NHL went on pause on March 12: The competition for the Stanley Cup with 12 teams in two hub cities, of which Toronto remains one of 10 in contention.

Bettman stressed the health and safety of players and club personnel was paramount, and the timing for the start of Phase 4 is to be determined.

Of course, the plans to return to play are at the whim of the coronavirus. It could be that we don’t see the NHL again until the start of the 2020-21 season, and there’s no certainty as to when that would be.

Let’s assume the NHL’s plans fall into place as the league hopes, even if there are moving dates on the calendar.

Toronto ended the season with a record of 36-25-9 for 81 points, including going 27-15-5 under Sheldon Keefe after the firing of Mike Babcock last November.

The Leafs, seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference based on points percentage, indeed, would play the ninth-seed Columbus Blue Jackets in the play-in qualifying round, with the best-of-five representing the first post-season matchup of the teams.

To put it simply, the series would pit the Leafs’ high-octane offence (their 3.39 goals a game was third in the NHL) against the Blue Jackets’ stifling, nose-to-the-grindstone defence (their 2.61 goals-against a game tied for third-fewest in the NHL).

We wouldn’t want to take anything away from Keefe, but the Jackets would have an edge behind the bench in coach John Tortorella, considering his NHL experience compared to Keefe (1,327), but we would take Frederik Andersen over Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo in goal.

Both teams would be close to full health, and for Toronto, getting defenceman Jake Muzzin and forward Ilya Mikheyev, who were injured when the season was paused, back for the penalty-kill would be crucial.

The Leafs and Jackets were to play each other on March 21 for the third and final time of the season. They met twice, with each team winning once, but not since Oct. 21.

Individually, the Leafs had some good things going for them when play was halted. Matthews was Matthews; Marner wound up with 67 points in 59 games, and captain John Tavares finished with 60 points in 63 games, giving him 148 in 145 in his first two seasons with Toronto. William Nylander and Zach Hyman shone, and Rasmus Sandin was taking steps on the blue line.

The final dozen games, record-wise, summed up the Leafs’ season to a degree. There were inconsistencies as they went 6-5-1, winning their final game against Tampa Bay after going 0-2-1 on a three-game trip through California that produced only three goals.

We buy into what many players have said during the past two months — that teams that are the youngest and most-skilled would have the best shot out of the gate. The Leafs would glide effortlessly into that category.

Now let’s keep our fingers crossed that the NHL positives revealed on Tuesday become reality in the coming months.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

LeBron James, other Lakers express frustration on social media over death of George Floyd — Daily News

Another death of a black man in police custody has angered people around the NBA, including Lakers star LeBron James. A video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling atop the neck of a man named George Floyd who later died circulated through news and social media circles. James weighed in on Instagram, posting a still…

LeBron James, other Lakers express frustration on social media over death of George Floyd — Daily News

Damian Lillard Won’t Play In NBA Return If Blazers Don’t Have Playoff Shot — NESN.com

As the NHL on Tuesday announced its plan to scrap the regular season and delve right into a 24-team postseason, the NBA hasn’t gotten as far with its comeback in regards to return-to-play formats. The league surveyed its GMs to get a feel for how each team feels, but some players are taking it upon…

Damian Lillard Won’t Play In NBA Return If Blazers Don’t Have Playoff Shot — NESN.com

As the NHL on Tuesday announced its plan to scrap the regular season and delve right into a 24-team postseason, the NBA hasn’t gotten as far with its comeback in regards to return-to-play formats. The league surveyed its GMs to get a feel for how each team feels, but some players are taking it upon themselves to publicly voice their opinions too. Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, for example, on Tuesday made it known that if the NBA doesn’t return with a structure that gives his team a shot at the playoffs, he won’t participate. “If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that in there.” It makes sense that he wouldn’t want to risk injury, or the chance of getting sick, for meaningless basketball. The Blazers currently sit at No. 9 in the Western Conference, 3.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot currently inhabited by the Memphis Grizzlies. “If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard said. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.” There is no return format that will please everyone while still putting safety concerns at highest priority, but until it nails those logistics down, no other big decisions can really be made. We’ll see what the league comes up with.

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/damian-lillard-wont-play-in-nba-return-if-blazers-dont-have-playoff-shot/

MLB Players Disappointed by Owners’ Latest Contract Proposal — Variety

It took Major League Baseball owners 10 days to send an economic proposal to the players’ association. It took the union about 10 minutes to reject it. The ability to play any semblance of a regular season depends on the ability of management and labor to reach an agreement. The season has been delayed because…

MLB Players Disappointed by Owners’ Latest Contract Proposal — Variety

Philadelphia 76ers To Begin ‘Phased Reopening For Voluntary, Individual Workouts’ At Camden Complex — CBS Philly

This comes after Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that professional sports teams can begin practicing and resume competition in New Jersey.

Philadelphia 76ers To Begin ‘Phased Reopening For Voluntary, Individual Workouts’ At Camden Complex — CBS Philly

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Breaks Down Plans for Playoffs — Prime Time Sports Talk

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman explained plans for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Draft Lottery.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Breaks Down Plans for Playoffs — Prime Time Sports Talk
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a plan to resume play with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bettman opened his statement by revealing that the 2019-20 season has been deemed complete; the next game played will kick off the playoffs.
The top four teams in each conference will claim automatic berths in the playoffs and will conduct a round-robin to determine seeding. Ties in these games will be broken by regular-season seeding.
Eight more teams from each conference (ranked by regular-season points percentage) will play in series that follow the playoff format. The winners of this round will play the top seeds in Round 1.
These matchups will go down as follows:
Penguins vs. Canadiens
Hurricanes vs. Rangers
Islanders vs. Panthers
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Predators vs. Coyotes
Canucks vs. Wild
Flames vs. Jets
Bettman added that games will be played in hub cities, with the Western Conference playing in one city and the Eastern Conference playing in another.
The league has yet to determine which cities will be chosen, but Bettman did state that following cities are up for consideration:
Chicago, Ill.
Columbus, Ohio
Dallas, Tex.
Edmonton, Alb.
Las Vegas, Nev.
Los Angeles, Cali.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
Pittsburgh, Penn.
Toronto, Ont.
Vancouver, B.C.
The first two rounds’ formats are up in the air, but the Finals will occur as a best-of-seven series.
Teams can return in early June with small-group gatherings on or off the ice, but full-team training camps won’t return until mid-July.
Finally, Bettman addressed the Draft Lottery, which could occur in two phases. The first phase will occur on June 26 with 15 teams eligible. These 15 teams consist of the seven not resuming play and eight blank slots for teams that are eliminated from the qualifying round. If a blank spot is selected for any one of the top three picks, Phase 1 will be canceled and Phase 2 will occur once the first eight teams are eliminated.
A lot remains to be seen regarding the future of the season, but there is growing optimism that the NHL’s resumption could cause the NBA and MLB to return soon.

Coronavirus: A’s set to furlough scouts, half of their front office — Times-Standard

The Oakland A’s will follow the lead of other baseball teams hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic by instituting widespread furloughs across their organization next week, the team confirmed Tuesday. The A’s will furlough members of their baseball operations as well as their business operations through Oct. 31. In all, half of the A’s…

Coronavirus: A’s set to furlough scouts, half of their front office — Times-Standard