Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s “When” not “If” On Firing Mike Babcock

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 01: Former Detroit Red Wings head coach and current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock watches the No. 4 jersey retirement ceremony of former Red Wing Red Kelly (not pictured) prior to an NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena on February 1, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 01: Former Detroit Red Wings head coach and current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock watches the No. 4 jersey retirement ceremony of former Red Wing Red Kelly (not pictured) prior to an NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena on February 1, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs season ended with two straight losses to the Boston Bruins.

Just one win away from the second round, the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t close out the deal, in large part because of Mike Babcock. 

Mike Babcock was the one who played Patrick Marleau (who scored less per minute over 82 games than Frederik Gauthier) just slightly less than Auston Matthews and John Tavares.

Babcock is the one who, with the goalie pulled, let Patrick Marleau on the ice.  And he’s the one who decided to pull the goalie twice in a row without having possession of the puck.

This isn’t to say that Mike Babcock lost the Leafs the series, but just to say that he contributed by making decisions that cost the team.

Even though the Leafs have publicly stated that Babcock will be back, I think it’s clear that he’s done here – if not now, either as soon as they have an extended losing streak or after next season.

Since that seems to be the case, why prolong it?

Mike Babcock Is Essentially Done in Toronto

In addition to some poor coaching to end the season, which seems to have opened up the coach criticism he had previously been immune to, there are several things that point to Babcock’s eventual demise.

Babcock was also at the centre of controversy earlier in the year when made some comments about the Leafs general direction that may or may not have been pointed remarks directed at Kyle Dubas.

Then there is the fact that most General Managers want their own coach, and that the Leafs just signed Sheldon Keefe to a two year minor league deal when pretty much everyone agrees that he would be a shoe-in for one of the eight coaching vacancies there were a few weeks ago (several have been filled).

If you consider everything:

  1. Rightly criticized for real errors.
  2. Coach and GM seem to have different philosophies when either of them talk.  Coach bashes GM in the media, then tells media they ridiculous to think that.
  3. Makes line-up and coaching decisions that seem to be in direct contrast to what management seems to be doing/seems to want.
  4. Was not hired by current GM.
  5. Did not get an immediate endorsement despite three years left on contract.
  6. The Leafs have a coach in waiting, who has a long personal relationship with the current GM, and who has seemingly passed up immediate NHL employment to wait for the Leafs.
  7. Had to fly out to visit the home of his best player in the summer, which the rumours suggested was to clear up a rift.  Though it was denied, I personally believe the rumour without reservation.

To be honest, there are so many strikes against Babcock here that a person more cynical than me might suggest that the only reason they haven’t moved to fire him yet is because a mid-season firing is an excellent relief valve and gives an almost guaranteed short-term bump in performance.

Mike Babcock isn’t a known for his genius tactical game, or his forward-thinking ideas.  He is known as a motivator, leader, role-model and teacher.  Those are all awesome things for a coach to be, especially for a rebuilding team.

Next. Leafs Management Final Grades. dark

But now that those things have been instilled in the players over the last four years, it seems the Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of a new coach, one more in line with the organization’s commitment to analytics and being a forward-thinking, progressive organization.

With Keefe passing up a sure-fire NHL promotion, it’s hard to believe Babcock will be here much longer.