Toronto Maple Leafs: Biggest concern with NHL’s push for June draft

Toronto Maple Leafs - Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the rest of the NHL have reportedly received a memo regarding this year’s draft, with the league office alluding towards it taking place in June despite the 2019-20 season remaining unresolved.

Friday was an interesting day for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the rest of the teams, as they received a memo from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. The main basis for the memo was to share the league office’s position on the 2020 entry draft.

Daly acknowledges the draft will not be the typical experience fans have come to expect – something which everyone already knew. However, what really stood out was that the memo essentially alluded to the league office aiming for the draft to still take place in June, as with previous years.

After the recent success of the NFL’s virtual draft in respect of record viewing numbers, the NHL is eager to follow a similar path sooner than later. As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Daly has indicated the broadcast networks are on board with the plan.

While the Leafs’ position specifically is unclear, there are a number of teams who are unhappy about a June draft. The general consensus is that it is a terrible idea, while also believing the league office is essentially telling them it is going to happen.

One of the more vocal opponents is Detroit Red Wings general manger Steve Yzerman. As reported by Fox 17, Yzerman made his feelings clear on Wednesday, during a Facebook Live conversation on Fox Sports Detroit:

"“I haven’t really heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season…My thought is, ‘Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?’ There’s a lot of things that are affected, obviously. The Draft position hasn’t been established, we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, or who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases.”"

The league office is well aware of and understand all the concerns teams have. As per Friedman, Friday’s memo by Daly said:

"“The fact of the matter is that whenever we hold the 2020 Draft — in early June or ‘shoehorned’ into a short window in October or November — (it) is not going to be a typical NHL Draft…While we may know more about next year’s landscape in terms of CBA, Salary Cap, Escrow, etc., in November than we will in June, we are still not going to know everything, and there is still going to be a multitude of questions that have no answers. So, any comparison of the 2020 NHL Draft to a typical year’s Draft is not — and cannot be — an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”"

While you can appreciate what Daly is talking about, there is still a justified argument to say it is too soon to hold the draft. After all, the league office has continually talked about wanting to complete the 2019-20 season.

Daly and company can talk all they want about using a team’s points percentage to decide the order of the draft, or changing the lottery format. However, if the current campaign is going to be completed, then why the rush to have the draft so soon?

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Why determine the draft order now, especially if the season then resumes and team positions change? Can you imagine the uproar from the organizations being screwed over, while others gain an unfair advantage?

The only justification for holding the draft in June, would be if the current season is not going to be resumed. However, we all know the league office will hold off on cancelling the 2019-20 campaign until there is absolutely no other alternative.

In this respect, the NHL is in the same position as every other professional sports leagues. They are effectively at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the virus determining the timeline at this stage rather than the other way around.

Ultimately, as the recent NFL draft showed, one thing the pandemic can’t influence is virtual contact, and the NHL is desperate to provide fresh content for their fans. As such, no matter how many teams protest, the league office will more than likely move ahead with their plan to hold the entry draft next month.

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What is your position on the NHL holding their draft in June? Do you agree with this potential decision, or do you believe it should take place later in the year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.