Game on! We now have the 56-game 2021 schedule for the North (i.e. Canadian) Division containing dates and opponents, with times and venues TBA.
Here is how the 56 games break down by opponent for the Leafs:
- 10 games against Montreal, including the season opener on Jan. 13 and two two-game series
- 10 games against Winnipeg, including two three-game series (in March and April) and one two-game series
- 9 games against Ottawa, including a back-to-back on the first weekend of the season (Jan. 15-16) and a three-game series in February
- 9 games against Vancouver, including a three-game series in February and three two-game series
- 9 games against Calgary, including three two-game series
- 9 games against Edmonton, including one three-game series and three two-game series
North Division breakdown: pic.twitter.com/fWopWyK1jR
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 23, 2020
The Leafs will go from seeing each of these Western Conference Canadian rivals — Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, et al — twice a year to nine or ten times, many of which will be played in mini-series two or three games in length.
Where this falls on the spectrum between heated rivalries and oversaturation/repetitiveness will be interesting to see, but given it is a short 56-game sprint, the stakes should be high enough to make this a lot of fun for Canadian hockey fans.
2021 Toronto Maple Leafs Schedule – Opening Month
|DATE||VISITOR||HOME||TIME (EST)||TV Network|
As far as the competitive landscape goes, the Leafs could not have asked for much of a better situation if 2019-20 points percentage is any indication. The East Division scores as the toughest by a fair margin, and the Canadian/North Division the weakest by a fair margin:
|North Division||GP||Pts||2019-20 Pts%|
|Average (Leafs Opposition)||.520|
|Average (Leafs Included)||.528|
|West Division||GP||Pts||2019-20 Pts%|
|Central Division||GP||Pts||2019-20 Pts%|
|East Division||GP||Pts||2019-20 Pts%|
The two teams the Leafs will play 10 times, Winnipeg and Montreal, were not inside the league’s top 20 teams when the 2019-20 regular season ended in March.
With the top four from each division making the playoffs and each division sending a representative to the Stanley Cup semifinal, this is a fantastic opportunity sitting in front of a Leafs team looking to get over the postseason hump with its first playoff series win since 2004.
- Related Reading: Where do the Leafs stack up in the all-Canadian division?
From the league’s press release on the new North Division:
* The North Division marks a return to the NHL’s rivalry roots. The League included only Canadian teams in its first seven seasons (1917-18–1923-24) until the Boston Bruins became the first U.S.-based franchise in 1924-25.
* This is the first all-Canadian division in NHL history. When divisions were introduced to the NHL in 1926-27, the Canadian Division included the New York Americans for all 12 seasons (1926-27–1937-38) and the St. Louis Eagles in 1934-35 (a result of the original Ottawa Senators relocating).
* Montreal and Toronto, the NHL’s two remaining founding franchises, will play in the same division for the 41st season all-time and 22nd consecutive campaign dating to 1998-99 when the Maple Leafs joined the Canadiens in the Northeast Division. Ottawa also has been in the same division as Canada’s two Original Six clubs since 1998-99; the Senators have shared a division with the Canadiens for each of their 28 seasons (including 2020-21).
* Edmonton and Vancouver will continue as division rivals for a 41st consecutive season dating to 1979-80 when the Oilers entered the NHL (Smythe: 1979-80–1992-93; Pacific: 1993-94–1997-98; Northwest: 1998-99–2012-13; Pacific: 2013-14–2019-20). They now have been with Calgary for 39 consecutive campaigns dating to 1981-82 when the Flames – in their second season in Alberta – joined the Smythe Division.
* Fans in Winnipeg are set to revisit several old rivalries. The original Jets were division rivals with Toronto for their final three seasons in Winnipeg (1993-94–1995-96) and were longtime Smythe Division foes of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver (1982-83–1992-93).
* Vancouver will renew acquaintances with former division rivals Montreal and Toronto. All three teams competed in the East Division from 1970-71 to 1973-74 (each of the Canucks’ first four NHL seasons) before the League realigned in 1974-75.