Toronto Maple Leafs: Takeaways from NHL’s off-season protocol

Toronto Maple Leafs can now start their preparations for the 2020-21 campaign, after the NHL announced their protocol for the off-season.

It hasn’t been that long since the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season ended, courtesy of their humbling play-in series loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, they now have some semblance of a formal plan to follow in preparation for the 2020-21 campaign.

As reported by Sportsnet, the NHL announced its protocol for off-season training on Thursday. The protocol will come into effect once the Stanley Cup Final concludes on Sep. 30 at the latest.

As per the league’s protocol, teams will be allowed to reopen their practice facilities from Oct. 15 for voluntary workouts. Using the Leafs as an example, they would need sufficient advance notice from at least five player, with Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston reporting that a maximum of 12 players can be on the ice at the same time.

The 12-player maximum is understandable, as the NHL continues to take into account the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Their training protocol document places a premium on social distancing, along with health and safety measures.

It’s tough to criticise the league’s approach, especially with how successful they have been with the bubble setup in Toronto and Edmonton during these playoffs. In this respect, the off-season protocol is similar to the Phase 2 protocol for the 2019-20 Return to Play plan.

As per the NHL’s press release, the off-season protocol was agreed between the league and the players’ association. It was also developed with the input of their respective medical, epidemiology and infectious disease experts as well as club medical personnel.

It is important to note the protocol does not include start dates for training camp or the 2020-21 season. This should come as no surprise, as the NHL waits to see the impact of COVID-19 in the coming months, before making any official decisions.

At this year’s highly anticipated state of the league address, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman admitted the 2020-21 campaign could start as late as January. There has also been speculation the Leafs will play in an all-Canadian division next season, pending travel restrictions at the Canada- U.S. border.

Of course, before the Leafs even play next season, they have plenty of work to do as they aim to improve their roster to make a realistic challenge for the Stanley Cup. This will include the 2020 NHL draft on Oct. 6 and the start of free agency on Oct. 9.

What is your main priority for the Toronto Maple Leafs during the off-season? Is there any player in particular who you think they should (realistically) look at targeting for their team? Let us know in the comments section below.