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

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.

NHL releases Phase 2 of return-to-sport plan; expects early June roll out — Winnipeg Sun

The NHL is planning to allow players to return to their home cities to begin small optional group skates and workouts in early June. Read More

NHL releases Phase 2 of return-to-sport plan; expects early June roll out — Winnipeg Sun

NHL releases Phase 2 of return-to-sport plan; expects early June roll out
Paul FriesenMore from Paul Friesen
Published:May 25, 2020
Updated:May 25, 2020 12:41 PM CDT

The NHL is planning to allow players to return to their home cities to begin small optional group skates and workouts in early June.
The plan is outlined in a comprehensive, 21-page document covering Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play protocol, released on Monday.
It allows for players to travel back to their team cities if they choose to, where extensive testing and prevention guidelines will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The document covers everything from the number of players who can skate at one time to how their equipment is handled to where they should eat meals and have showers.
It also includes a warning.
“This Protocol, while very comprehensive, cannot mitigate all risk,” the memo reads. “A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome. COVID-19 generally affects older age groups and those with previously existing medical conditions, moreso than younger, and otherwise healthy, individuals, and we recognize that Players and personnel have family and household members who may fall into these vulnerable categories.”


Players who travel back to their team sites commercially will be forced to self-quarantine for 14 days before taking part. Those travelling privately or by charter flight can avoid the quarantine period if local regulations allow.
NHL and AHL players will be compensated up to $1,500 U.S. for travel, and any who don’t have permanent residences will be put up in hotels, provided the hotels have strict cleaning and virus prevention standards and the amenities players are used to having on road trips.
The memo says all players and team staff will be subject to a COVID-19 test, but only if there is enough local testing capacity “so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests.”
If testing is not available, returning players and staff will have to quarantine for two weeks.
Players and staff will also be subject to daily temperature and symptom checks before being allowed to enter team facilities. Anybody developing symptoms will be tested immediately and, if positive, will be quarantined.

NHL: An explanation of why the Tampa Bay Lightning voted no on NHLPA vote — Empire Sports Media

Tampa Bay Lightning player representative Alex Killorn wants to make one thing perfectly clear, “Everyone on our team wants to play,” he said to Joe Smith of theAthletic.com. The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of two teams (Carolina was the other) to say no in a vote the NHLPA had to authorize the continuation of […]

NHL: An explanation of why the Tampa Bay Lightning voted no on NHLPA vote — Empire Sports Media

Helene Elliott: Mental health no longer dirty words in macho world of NHL — Kankakee Connected

LOS ANGELES – Hockey players are celebrated for their toughness. It’s common for a player to absorb a booming hit without flinching, or to lose a row of teeth to an errant puck and say he’s sorry he had to… Read More: https://ift.tt/2ys8njf

Helene Elliott: Mental health no longer dirty words in macho world of NHL — Kankakee Connected

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-05-22/mental-health-no-longer-dirty-words-in-macho-world-of-nhl

Maple Leafs Get Roasted Over Potential Matchups In NHL’s 24-Team Proposal — NESN.com

The last decade-plus or so haven’t been particularly kind to the Toronto Maple Leafs. For one, they’ve made the postseason just four times since reaching the second round in 2004, and all four appearances resulted in first-round exits. Three of said exits have been to the Boston Bruins (2013, 2018 and 2019), with the series…

Maple Leafs Get Roasted Over Potential Matchups In NHL’s 24-Team Proposal — NESN.com

The last decade-plus or so haven’t been particularly kind to the Toronto Maple Leafs. For one, they’ve made the postseason just four times since reaching the second round in 2004, and all four appearances resulted in first-round exits. Three of said exits have been to the Boston Bruins (2013, 2018 and 2019), with the series ending each time in a Game 7 at TD Garden. This Maple Leafs season has been plenty bumpy, but they started to look like they might’ve been getting on track a bit, as they were sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division when the NHL season paused. Had that result held, they would’ve avoided playing the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs for a change. However, the Covid-19 pause on the NHL has forced the league to get creative, and the players on Friday agreed to a 24-team playoff format. Based on what the reported seedings would be, the Leafs would have to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in the “play-in” round in order to get to the traditional 16-team playoff. If the Leafs did that, do you know who they would face in what technically would be the first round? You guessed it, the Bruins.

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/maple-leafs-get-roasted-over-potential-matchups-in-nhls-24-team-proposal/

Marner laughs at list now, figures Selke would look good in his trophy case one day — Toronto Sun

Mitch Marner chuckles about it now, the infamous list of lazy Maple Leafs teammates that Mike Babcock had him put together during Marner’s NHL rookie season in 2016-17. Read More

Marner laughs at list now, figures Selke would look good in his trophy case one day — Toronto Sun

Mitch Marner chuckles about it now, the infamous list of lazy Maple Leafs teammates that Mike Babcock had him put together during Marner’s NHL rookie season in 2016-17.

Marner appeared on former teammate Connor Carrick’s podcast this week and Carrick asked: What has been among Marner’s greatest learning opportunities as a Leaf?

“I think one is to never grade your teammates on their work ethic in practice,” Marner said with a laugh. “That one is definitely the top. I was really young, I was really nervous, I didn’t know what to do, so I did it. Next thing I knew, it got reported to the team (by Babcock).”

The Toronto Sun was the first to report the incident last November, not long after Babcock was fired. At the bottom of Marner’s list were veterans James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.

“Bozie, JVR and Naz have been great throughout my career,” Marner said. “At first, they were jiving me about it, because I didn’t know it was going to get shown to them. I think (Babcock’s) lesson was trying to show the older guys that I’m a young guy and I’m looking up to those three. It didn’t come out that way, but that’s what the goal was.”

During the podcast, Marner also revealed the NHL trophy he would be keen to win.

“The award that would be really cool to be acknowledged for is the Selke (as the best defensive forward),” Marner said. “The names on the Selke are the guys everyone is scared of on the ice.”