November 20th, 2019 will go down as one of the biggest days in Maple Leaf History. Today is the day many have asked for. The firing of now-former head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike Babcock.
Mike Babcock‘s time as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs has come to a close. Nearly 4 years after signing on the dotted line in Toronto, Babcock was relieved of his coaching duties by Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
Many people will ask what led to the Babcock dismissal? While there are a number of different things people would say in regards to the firing. Let’s look at a few specific points as to how we got here.
Not A Great Last Few Months.
Let’s be honest. The Leafs have struggled since the Calendar flipped to 2019. As of today, the team has a 29-28-10 record in their last 67 games (playoffs excluded) that puts the Leafs at 68 points within that span, which would make them near the bottom of the league. It’s clear that the way that Mike wanted to play hockey and the way the Leafs want to play hockey was clearly different. The team is riding a 6 game losing streak in which the team has practically collapsed like Leafs teams of the past.
It is also worth noting that within that 6 game losing streak, the team has been scored on first. 18 out of 23 games this season the Leafs have been scored on first. Approximately 78% of the time the puck goes into their net, simply not good enough for a team with hopes of contending for the playoffs.
Losing His Players Trust
Let’s face it. This team does not like their coach. You can see it in their body language when they’re on the bench or after a goal is scored. The players from what many of the fans saw was disengaged and did not look like themselves. Sure, disagreements and arguments happen but sometimes you come out of them feeling differently about the person.
Babcock has been known for his coaching ways and many seem to be very disgruntled with their usage. Players like Josh Leivo, Nic Petan, Justin Holl, and most recently Jason Spezza come to mind. It goes without saying Babcock has his toys and his favorites when it comes to who he sends on the ice. For example, right after the tying goal Tuesday Night, Babcock immediately sends out the 4th line, something he is prone to do and often times it ends up leading to a goal.
Difference With the Front Office.
There is no denying that Kyle Dubas and Mike Babcock are different people. One is strong in analytics and sports stats, the other is keen on grit and tenacity. Simply, they are not a good match. The disdain between Babcock and Dubas has been really evident in the last little while.
Clearly Dubas has been building a team that is not the typical Babcock style and it has shown. Tyson Barrie went from offensive power-play quarterback to looking lost on the ice.
Proper deployment of players or staff, in general, is how you provide strength and stability in your organization. If you put someone where they are not comfortable, odds are they will struggle in their performance.
Stubbornness and Struggle with Change.
There is no denying that despite the coaching record and great philosophies, Mike is as stubborn as a mule as they say. The guy simply is hard to change. Mike Babcock is who he is and it shows in the way he refuses to adapt.
The 4th line is something he has used a lot, usually after goals, and it has not paid off well. Morgan Reilly and Cody Ceci, have been without a doubt the team’s biggest issue as both men seem lost and not flowing together at all.
Going back to my deployment point for a second
if a player or combination is not working, odds are you should change it up right? Don’t get me wrong, Moving Trevor Moore to the John Tavares– Mitch Marner line and moving Kasperi Kapanen back to the right-wing are good improvements, but rarely do we see these moves from the coach and he would go back to his old ways right after.
It Was The Right Time
We hate to admit it but it’s true. Everyone has time to go in the workplace, and this situation was no different. It’s hard to believe almost 5 years ago we never would have expected a coach like Mike Babcock to even think about coaching in a market like Toronto.
For the last 4 years, Mike Babcock helped us to believe again. We went from being embarrassed by our hockey team to finally embracing a new wave of Maple Leafs Hockey. We went from laughing stock of the league to a formidable threat to the rest of the NHL. However, all good things must come to an end.
All we can do now is move forward, and we must do that with the new Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe. Keefe has been a Dubas favorite going back to his days in the Soo (Sault. St Marie Greyhounds) so the familiarity is already a perfect fit. We now have to wait and see what the guy we were waiting on has in store for the blue and white. Keefe has a Calder cup, 2 back to back conference finals appearances and a 10-2-2 record in 14 games in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Let us see if that can apply to the NHL now.
As a Leaf’s fan for a long time, I can honestly say thank you to Mike Babcock. Thank you for allowing this team to grow and give us some really crazy fun hockey even when times were not so bright. Everything happens for a reason and we all can hope that this decision ultimately was the best one for the team, the organization and most importantly the fans. Pain and all, we all can look back on the Mike Babcock era in Toronto as an unfinished chapter. So much greatness, mixed with so much pain and frustration. Now the next chapter begins, let’s just see where this road takes us shall we?