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FTB: a 24-team playoffs where the Leafs play the Sabres

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This should not be allowed to happen.

NHL: APR 02 Sabres at Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 02: Toronto Maple Leafs Center Nazem Kadri (43) runs into Buffalo Sabres Goalie Chad Johnson (31) and gets a penalty for goaltender interference during the NHL regular season game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 2, 2018, at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Photograph by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With a quarter of the regular season likely being scrapped due to COVID-19, the NHL has been trying to come up with creative solutions to add more games to their schedule in order to make up for some of that lost TV revenue. The NHL Playoffs are a cash cow so adding more games to that is an obvious solution to their problems.

However, optically, having a league that already has half their teams make the playoffs expand such that all but seven make it in a 31-team league is a tad ridiculous. But money makes the world go round, and the NHL has no problem trying to make money in the most ridiculous possible fashions.

There are two likely scenarios wherein the NHL can fit eight more teams into the traditionally 16-team tournament. First, allow the top eight teams (two per division or four per conference) a bye through the first round, while the remaining 16 battle to play them. In both these cases, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers get a bye into the round of 16.

One way to split the bottom 16 teams is to rank them within their conference and match them up 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5. Here, Pittsburgh is the first seed, Carolina edges out the Leafs for the second seed due to their lower games played, and Montreal is the eighth seed.

So for the Leafs, their first round opponent would be the New York Rangers. Not an egregious matchup, the Rangers only have two fewer points than the Leafs in as many games and they’re a young and exciting team with top scorers like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

Having the Bettman .500 Canadiens in the playoffs is a little iffy, they were only on pace for 82 points this season, but cash is king, I guess. But hey, it could be a lot worse.

NHL Eastern Conference standings at time of league pause.
NHL.com

For example, if the league, that has already gone all-in on divisional rivalries goes a step further and expands the playoffs to the top six teams in each of the four divisions. Here, the 92-point pace Rangers miss the playoffs because they’re the seventh seed in a stacked Metro division, and instead the 80-point pace Buffalo Sabres play the Leafs in the first round for a chance to play the Lightning in the round of 16.

I can’t tell you how much second-hand embarrassment I would have for the NHL if they had the absent-mindedness to actually go through with it. The Sabres suck. They’re likely going to have the seventh overall pick in the 2020 Draft; one spot before where the Leafs picked William Nylander six years ago. Remember the 2013-14 Leafs and imagine how out-of-place that team would look in the playoffs.

NHL Atlantic Division standings at time of league pause.
NHL.com

Gary, please don’t do it. Even if it’s five games, or three games, or even a one-game sudden-death match. I know Buffalo is a major TV market but for the love of god think about the sanctity of the sport. And I’m not just saying this because there’s a very real possibility the Leafs come out this pause cold and lose to the Sabres. It’s already been a bad enough year as it is.


Leafs Branches

So, with that awful thought in our minds, hopefully this memory isn’t as terrifying.

It’s the seven-year anniversary of the infamous “it was 4-1” game. Yup. The first game seven against the Bruins that now seemingly haunts the Leafs every year. Seven years to the day since “Kessel shoots, rebound Kadri, scores!” turned into “Bergeron scores!” barely half an hour later. This is your warning to stay off the internet if that’s what you need to do.

Fuck the Bruins.

In other news, Species and I wrote two Marlies articles yesterday that, in my humble opinion, does a really good job of providing some insight into the team and the players after a rough seventh-placed season. It seems like a lot of you have already read it, which was really gratifying to see.

I also did a podcast with Mike Distefano talking about the Marlies, including disappointing performances, the logjam on defense, and some up-and-comers to look forward to.

The NHL and NHLPA are working to put together Phase 2 Protocol for the Avengers Initiative for restarting the season. The hurdles and more on Insider Trading.

The NBA did a poll of all of their players and got back a majority in favour of trying to play the playoffs, which includes a “united front” of the league’s superstars.

The AHL has always been an experimental league for the NHL, and that’s no different in this situation. The AHL is workshopping some pretty creative ideas for how to get players and teams back on the ice and playing and the NHL is paying close attention.