One week from today the Toronto Maple Leafs will take to the ice in the hopes of ending the longest current playoff drought in the NHL. Despite some front-office shuffling earlier this week, a lack of off-season moves has left Leaf Nation with very little optimism that this will be the year they will finally get to cheer on their team in the postseason. In an attempt to bolster the spirits of pessimistic Leaf fans, I have come up with 3 legitimate reasons why Toronto has a better chance than one might think in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.
Reason #1 – No interconference games
One of the most interesting aspects of the lockout shortened 2012-13 regular season is that no Eastern Conference teams will play against Western Conference teams and vice-versa. This decision was likely based on limiting travel time because of the compressed schedule. Whatever the reason, certain teams will applaud this temporary change or loath it based on how they have fared in the past during these interconference games.
The 2011-12 season was a bit of an outlier for the Maple Leafs as they actually had a significantly better record against the Western Conference (9-6-3) than they did in the East (26-31-7). If you take a look at the last 5 seasons as a whole, Toronto has performed much better against Eastern Conference opponents. From the 2007-08 season to the 2011-12 campaign last year, Toronto had a record of 141W – 138L – 49OT in 328 games against the Eastern Conference. In other words, out of a total possible 656 points available in those games, the Leafs recorded 331 points. That is a “success rate” of 50.5%. Against the Western Conference they had a record of 31W – 41L – 10OT in 82 games played. That translates to 72 points out of a possible 164 points – “success rate” of 43.9%.
It doesn’t help the fact that Toronto plays within one of the toughest divisions in the entire league but the Leafs will surely be happy to not have to face-off against perennial powerhouse teams like the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks… at least until the playoffs.
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