Today, Elliotte Friedman reported that the newest CBA includes a rule that targets the Leafs’ usage of practice facilities. Per @Account4Hockey on Twitter, Friedman said on SN590: “Toronto was a team that, a lot of their prospects, or a number of them, would come to Toronto in the summer and they’d work out at the practice facility and they really improved as players. And teams were like ‘we don’t like that.’ “
The NHL is penalizing the Toronto Maple Leafs for… improving their prospects.
This comes after the Leafs were barred from using NHL officials at their training camps recently.
It begs the question: Why are the Leafs penalized for being rich and smart?
The League Keeps Trying to “Bust” the Leafs
The league’s behaviour towards the Leafs reminds me of Candace Flynn in the hit Disney TV show, Phineas and Ferb.
If you’ve never watched the show, I’ll explain what I mean.
The show follows the adventures of two inventive step-brothers. As the duo, along with their friends, build comically unimaginable inventions, their older sister, Candace, tries to get them caught in the act. However, whenever she gets her parents near the scene, any evidence of the brothers’ shenanigans disappears, and they repeat the process in the next episode.
Except, instead of a teenage sister trying to catch her brothers… it’s a bunch of grown men crying about one of their most profitable teams.
Do you remember the David Ayres game? Of course you do, don’t lie to yourself.
When the league found out the team would be facing their own employee, they went ballistic.
And then the Leafs lost, you know, because they’re the Leafs.
However, Kyle Dubas later addressed it as a lose-lose situation and was mocked for it by some.
Was he wrong? The league would’ve unleashed hell on the team if they picked up two points against their own employee. So if they won, they would pretty much lose anyway.
Don’t the Leafs Help the Other Teams?
Let me introduce you to a little thing called revenue sharing. Basically, the top 10 highest earning teams share a piece of their revenue with the rest of the league. The Leafs are generally one of the highest-earning teams (usually behind the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens). They pay other NHL teams to help keep them afloat.
You also have to take into account the fans they draw. How many Leafs fans attend Leafs vs Sabres games in Buffalo? What about how many Isles fans are drawn to boo John Tavares at every Leafs vs Isles game in Long Island? How much money does the Leafs vs Habs rivalry make, as well as their rivalries with Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, and (checks notes) pretty much every team in the league for some reason?
What about the talent Toronto develops? Why does the league want Toronto players to not develop to their peak? The salary cap ends up pricing most of them out anyway. One year they’re a Leafs fan-favourite, and the next they’re winning a cup in St. Louis (hope you’re doing well, Tyler Bozak).
In other words, the Leafs are helping the league. Why are they being penalized for it?
Level the Playing Ground?
You think the Leafs have an unfair advantage? What about the tax advantage? Let’s adjust team salary caps to reflect the advantage given to other markets.
No, right? That’s a disservice to some teams that have issues on the ice as is, right?
What about the advantage teams like Tampa Bay and Los Angeles get over teams like Buffalo and Winnipeg in terms of how appealing the cities are (sorry to my friends in Buffalo and Winnipeg). Should the NHL try combating that? No, right? That wouldn’t make any sense.
What about the Arizona Coyotes? It came out that the team was illegally testing prospects for this year’s NHL draft. Now, with the NHL Draft Combine postponed and likely to be cancelled, the Coyotes are pretty much the only team with that data on prospects.
“They could be fined $5 million!”, well, the Toronto Maple Leafs could be fined and could lose draft picks for… letting their own prospects use the team facilities in the summer.
So I cannot even fathom why the league thinks it’s a good idea to consistently be on the Leafs rearview mirror. Those are arguably bigger advantages compared to… training over the summer and using referees at camp.
So, What Now?
What happens as Toronto fails to keep up with the markets for other sports in the city? Does the NHL know that they’re inadvertently shooting themselves in the foot? That’s a whole other can of worms.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but it seems like the league wants to do anything in their power to penalize the Leafs for… being creative?
The same people who taunt the Leafs for their failures claim that the league is rigged for the Leafs, not against them. Instead, the NHL has done everything in its power to pin the advantage against the Leafs.
The Leafs aren’t even considered contenders right now, are summer practices and referees at camp really the difference between another first-round exit and a Stanley Cup?
In the end, the NHL needs to set its priorities straight. Either they actually do something to keep the playing field level, or they cut out their anti-Leaf shenanigans.
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Featured Image via Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) on Twitter