Explosive Leak Shows Why Toronto Maple Leafs Players Hated Playing for Mike Babcock

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs talks with Mitchell Marner after being selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs talks with Mitchell Marner after being selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With more noise building up about the divided locker room, it’s becoming more painfully clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock too late.

Remember when the biggest story this weekend was the Toronto Maple Leafs hanging on for a big win against Nazem Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche? Those were some good times.

It hasn’t been a week since the Leafs made the decision to fire Mike Babcock and replace him with Sheldon Keefe and the team’s identity has completely changed almost overnight.

While the early results have indicated Keefe was the perfect fit to take the throne, reports have begun to circulate rapidly detailing why the Leafs were happy to see Babcock gone.

Toronto Maple Leafs Waited Too Long

Things picked up quickly when a report from James Mirtle of The Athletic stated that roughly 90% of the Leafs were relieved the Saskatchewan-native was fired a day later.

This came after Mike Commodore, a retired NHL player who has a grudge on Babcock, went on a Twitter tirade celebrating the announcement.

Prior to their game against the Arizona Coyotes, a few Leafs players were not subtle in expressing just how excited they were to have Keefe as their bench boss. The most damning being Travis Dermott saying in an interview that players want to “play for [Keefe].”

Tyson Barrie was the most outspoken of the bunch, who proceeded to score his first of the season that night.

Even Jason Spezza seemed to be in a much better mood, a far cry from being embarrassed by Babcock with the healthy scratch on opening night.

Before the Leafs took on the Avalanche on Saturday, Mark Fraser, a former member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, posted a long Twitter thread defending Commodore stating that Babcock has done quite a lot of bad things behind the scenes that the public were in the dark on. Who would have guessed that a day later a bomb drop would bust the door wide open.

The Toronto Sun reports a supposedly well known Babcock anecdote that is nothing less than psychological abuse of a teenager.

Let’s not beat around the bush here: what Babcock allegedly did to Mitch Marner is disgusting and extremely uncalled for.

There’s no place for this type of behavior in today’s society.

It’s quite ironic that Babcock preaches mental illness and says he wants to leave the door open so his players can talk to him whilst potentially causing psychological damage on a young player with a “motivation tactic.”

With a story like this leaking, it puts into perspective why Babcock felt it was necessary to travel to Arizona to personally meet with Auston Matthews for two consecutive off-seasons. It also paints a clearer picture into what caused the Matthews and Marner negotiations to play out the way they did.

There’s no doubt that Babcock did a lot of good for the Leafs in terms of developing them from basement dwellers to playoff contenders in just four years and change. But it is starting to become more apparent that the team were tuning him out and desperate for a new voice.

Case in point, the Leafs embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Watching the highlights of the game, the team appears to not be showing much effort in key areas of the ice and allowed the Penguins to walk all over them. It’s unfortunate that this happened on Kasmir Kaskisuo’s first night in the NHL, but it’s hard not to argue that it was the least of the team’s concerns.

Considering that the vibe surrounding the Leafs completely changed between Tuesday night’s game in Las Vegas and Thursday’s win in Arizona, Toronto looked like a team free from its shackles.

Taking everything into account, the question then becomes this: why did it take so long for the Leafs to fire Babcock?

More from Editor In Leaf

The team may say that he stayed because management was satisfied with their performance in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins (as Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported), but it’s also possible that the Leafs were not yet ready to give up on the $50 million salary tied to Babcock.

Remember though, Babcock wasn’t hired by Kyle Dubas; he was brought in by Brendan Shanahan in May 2015 to stay for eight years. Dubas seemed adamant to bring Keefe into the fold and perhaps upper-management was more hesitant.

A coach won’t be employed for long if your schemes grow stale, a significant percentage of the team dislikes you, and the results aren’t showing (regular season and playoffs). These new reports coming out about Babock’s coaching tactics dividing the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room, however, make it harder to justify keeping the bench boss on-board for as long as he was.

Dubas should have made the move to relieve Babcock of his coaching duties during the off-season after the latest Game 7 loss. The transition to the Keefe system would have been a lot easier on the players, the roster construction could have gone a lot smoother, and perhaps the Marner negotiations have a different outcome.

By keeping Babcock for as long as they did, the Toronto Maple Leafs put their critical season at risk by losing important points early on and watching the talented team coast through the first two months. Now they have to fast-track the adjustment process to the Keefe system and play keep-up to their division rivals the rest of the way.

Next. A 102 Year History of Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coaches. dark

In the end, Dubas finally has the man he wanted behind the bench and can build the Leafs the way he wants with Keefe who shares his vision. For the players on the roster, this is a modification they desperately needed at a critical point of the season.

With the reports coming out of Babcock’s questionable coaching tactics negatively impacting team morale, it’s hard not to argue that many players have been waiting far too long for this change to come.