Are the Maple Leafs a playoff team?
Toronto started well, but badly faded down the stretch last season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Are the Maple Leafs a playoff team?
A potential lockout is mere weeks away, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hockey to be played and that won’t stop us from continuing to answer your questions sent to the THN mailbag. We’ll continue to address them here online (as well as in the THN magazine and on THN Radio) regardless of whether or not hockey’s top league is operating. Of course, some of the focus may change out of necessity, but we’ll still be discussing the stories that matter to the planet’s best sport. Thanks as always for this week’s submissions.
Hey Adam, Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance at making the playoffs? And do you think Brian Burke has done a good job on the rebuilding?
Callum Kristensen, Oshawa, Ont.
Although THN picked the Leafs to finish 12th in the Eastern Conference this season, I do think they can’t be ruled out as a playoff possibility. Remember, this is a team that looked better than many expected they would in the early part of last year – building a 28-19-6 record by Feb. 6 – before they fell apart and went 7-18-4 the rest of the way.
Now, everyone knows Burke and the Leafs can’t start the season with their current goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. (Well, he can, but there would be a significant Toronto-area increase in the purchase of pitchforks and torches if he did.) That’s why the belief is he’s still interested in Roberto Luongo and could be waiting for the resolution of a new collective bargaining agreement (which could make Luongo a more attractive asset) before beating the bushes to look for a veteran.
Still, the Buds have added forwards James van Riemsdyk and Jay McClement and are counting on improvement from the likes of Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin and others to prevent another post-season-less season for the Blue and White. If a couple more things go right for them this year, it’s not at all a stretch to see them as a lower playoff seed.
Hi Adam, if there's a full-year lockout, what happens to next year’s draft positions? Do they re-do the lottery? Whatever the case, what's the chance Edmonton would get the 1st overall for the 4th year in a row? Also, if the season is just shortened, do player salaries get pro-rated, is the cap reduce to reflect the shorter season? Cheers.
Ian Archambault, Vancouver, B.C.
Let’s answer the easier question first: in the NHL’s 1994-95 lockout-shortened season, salaries were pro-rated over 48 games.
Now, to the more complex question: the 2005 NHL entry draft selection order was determined by a lottery; each team received between one and three balls depending on the number of playoff appearances and first overall draft picks they’d had in the previous three seasons.
Only four teams – Columbus, Buffalo, the Rangers and Penguins – had three balls in the lottery. And wouldn’t you know it, the Pens won it and picked a talent you may have heard of named Sidney Crosby. (The draft was also famous for being a “snake draft” in that the team that picked 30th overall also received the 31st overall pick before the selection order was reversed.)
With the precedent set, you’d have to imagine the NHL would utilize a similar system this time around. And given that the Oilers have had the past three first-overall picks and no playoff appearances, they’d likely receive two or fewer balls and other teams would have a better shot at picking Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones. But they’d still have a chance.
(Random salutation that you'll invariably retort with) Is it possible under the current CBA, forthcoming changes not withstanding, that a team may inflate their cap number with unrealistic performance bonuses?
For example, can a team such as the Isles who will struggle to meet the salary floor, sign a marginal free agent to a contract with the following terms: three years, $1.5m per in actual salary, and a $7.5m bonus contingent on scoring at least 93 goals in a season? If I understand the tagging and bonus structure correctly that would begin counting for $9m against the cap in the following season while only having to pay out $1.5m in actual salary. Does such a loophole exist?
Chad McGinn, Shenandoah, Pa.
No, that scenario would be immediately recognized by the league as a blatant cap circumvention and the deal would not be ratified. If the NHL went after the Devils for drastically ratcheting down Ilya Kovalchuk’s salary in the final seasons of a decade-plus-long contract, there’s no way they’d permit such an exaggerated, clearly unreachable statistical plateau to serve as a method for an owner to avoid spending to the floor.
Let’s put it this way: if some NHL owner could have done that in the past seven years, don’t you think they would have by this point? They know they can’t, so they don’t.
Hey Adam, Why is it that the NHL and NHLPA don't begin discussions until a month before the CBA is about to expire? It would make more sense if the two sides began discussions a good three months before the deadline so that then there would be less of a chance for a lockout. Thoughts?
Aaron Johnston, Edmonton, AB
I’ve heard people complain about this on Twitter, but to me this is a “nature of the beast” type scenario, at least when it comes to the tradition established in the NHL. For months and months last season, commissioner Gary Bettman repeatedly said team owners were placing no pressure on the players association as that they understood new executive director Don Fehr was still getting up to speed on the bigger picture.
In the past week or so, Bettman has changed his tune and now talks about time slipping away, but that’s only because the PA didn’t jump at the league’s first CBA offer. But all along both sides saw themselves engaged in a game of brinkmanship and neither plans to show its best bargaining cards until well into the scheduled start of the regular season.
In an ideal world, would both sides have recognized there’s a better way to negotiate and worked diligently over the past year or so to hammer out an agreement? Of course. But as we found out in 2004-05, the NHL world is far from ideal.