The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired Mike Babcock.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost six games in a row, haven’t held a lead in a game since October (or it feels like it) and now they’ve lost their coach.
Sheldon Keefe will take over immediately.
This is good news for the Leafs, and gives them at least a shot at salvaging their season. (Personally, I think they’ll have no problem doing so – they’re a team that will eventually be great).
Toronto Maple Leafs Mike Babcock
This was a move that should have happened in the summer, as it was clear after last year’s loss to the Bruins that Babcock wasn’t the guy to take this team to the promised land.
The Leafs were built to play a high octane game, and Babcock preached defense. He under used his best players, he over used his favorites (Hyman, Brown, Marleau).
This year, the Leafs made adjustments. Gone was the long-bomb pass, gone where the wingers breaking the zone early. Gone was the threat of a defenseman joining the rush.
These adjustments were made tighten up the Leafs leaky team defense, but all they did was stifle the team’s offense.
When they weren’t working, Babcock stuck with them.
He drew up his plans, his lines, and his D pairings in training camp, and he barely deviated from them.
The worst kept secret in hockey is that the players don’t like playing for him.
The writing was on the wall when Matthews complained to the Athletic about the rigidity of the Leafs offensive system compared to the free-styling Bruins top line in late October.
When the team lost six in a row, it became inevitable.
Injuries, the schedule, a totally ridiculous and fluky amount of first-goals of the game scored against them, and shooting and save percentages that will for sure rise all conspired to make the Leafs look worse than they are.
But that doesn’t mean you can lose six in a row.
Especially when it’s clear to everyone watching that Cody Ceci isn’t a first line defenseman, and that Auston Matthews should maybe play more than half the power play, and that maybe Nick Shore shouldn’t be on the ice when you’re down by a goal and there’s three minutes left.
Sheldon Keefe will be a breath of fresh air. You’ve already got the vultures aka 200 hockey men circling to say I Told You So, but Kyle Dubas built an amazing roster and the Leafs, under Keefe, are going to prove it.
This team is too good not to bounce back. They will definitely make the Playoffs and I still think they’re the best roster in hockey and that they will win the Stanley Cup.