Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe expects high intensity on a nightly basis if the NHL proceeds with an all-Canadian division for the 2020-21 season.
Keefe believes pre-existing rivalries between Canadian squads and a shortened campaign in which every game will be crucial to the playoff race should create an atmosphere similar to the postseason.
"Sure, you get to know your opponents better. But as you know your opponents better, they also know you better," Keefe told the Toronto Star's Kevin McGran. "So it has a very playoff type of feel to it in that sense."
Keefe said he's prepared to embrace the unique opportunity.
"I think it's really exciting," he said. "I think it presents its own challenges, given that when I look at the Canadian teams, virtually every one made positive changes. ... It's something that's very exciting for the fans. I'm sure that Canadian sports fans would embrace it."
Six Canadian teams qualified for the expanded postseason this past summer. The Vancouver Canucks enjoyed the deepest run, losing in seven games to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round. The Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated Keefe's Maple Leafs in the qualifying round.
The NHL hasn't finalized its plans for the coming campaign, but all signs point to an all-Canada division as Canada-U.S. border restrictions continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is hoping to begin a regular season of 48-60 games in January.