Time heals all wounds, but it’s quite possible that former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will never coach in the NHL again.
On November 20, 2019 the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to fire Mike Babcock after a 9-10-4 start to the season.
The news of his departure wasn’t much of a shock. After failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, fans and management were grown tired from his stubborn ways.
Kyle Dubas had constructed a skillful team, yet Babcock didn’t want to let the kids loose. Babcock insisted in being an ego-driven leader and never adjusted his ways.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Their Former Coach
As everyone knows, ice-time deployment was always an issue with Auston Matthews and Babcock. In game 7 of the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs, Babcock continued to roll all four lines, instead of relying on his top-six forwards to get the job done.
Matthews played less than 20 minutes that night, and the team lost another heart-breaking game to the Bruins.
There are plenty of examples like this where Babcock’s stubborn ways were put in the way of his team’s success.
Whether it was the continuation of putting either Mitch Marner or William Nylander on the fourth line, his love for players like Zach Hyman and Connor Brown or the healthy scratching of Jason Spezza in his first home game as a Maple Leaf, Babcock was not a millennial’s type of coach.
And according to Mike Commodore, Babcock might not be anyone’s type of coach.
Although Babcock’s ego has ruined some relationships over the years, his numbers are very good. In 1301 career games coached, Babcock sits eighth all-time in wins and has a 700-418-19-164 (Win, Loss, Tie & Overtime/Shootout Loss) overall record.
However, his winning percentage might not be good enough to get him another NHL job.
In addition to Mike Commodre’s rants, there have been other players that have shown their frustration with the mind-games that Babcock plays.
Johan Franzen came out and said that Babcock is “the worst person I have ever met.” Not only that, but Mitch Marner shared a story that he had to “rank his teammates from hardest to least hardest working, and then shared Marner’s opinions with the players.”
All of these stories are reasons why it’ll be hard for an NHL team to hire him as a head coach. To compare Babcock to a few other coaches currently out of the NHL, there are two names draw a similar narrative: Mike Keenan and Darryl Sutter.
In an interview with theScore, Jeremy Roenick shared a story about Keenan:
I was really afraid. I was forced to do it by Mike Keenan. He grabbed me by the throat on the bench in Kalamazoo in one of my first preseason games, because I wouldn’t hit anybody. I would always swing by and wouldn’t finish my check – and that’s just not acceptable for Mike Keenan. So he said I wouldn’t play a single game for him as long as I continued to swing by checks.
In regards to Sutter, Daniel Carcillo spoke out about his former head coach in an interview with Global News that sounded very familiar to those comments made by Commodore about Babcock:
“The worst coach I’ve ever had in my life….He would demean people in front of the room, in front of everyone … It’s just all about embarrassing guys.”
These are stories that coaches have a hard time coming back from. In a world where everything can filmed or recorded, it’s hard to be the type of coach that’s a bully anymore and that’s what Babcock is, similar to Keenan and Sutter.
To put things in perspective, Sutter was 58 years old and Keenan was 59 when they coached their last NHL game. Both had also been very successful, having coached over 1,200 games and most importantly, both had won Stanley Cup’s as head coaches.
To make things more similar, Babcock will be 57 years old this April, and has also won a Stanley Cup.
It’s quite possible that a team will ooverlook the bad and hire Babcock based off past performance, but unless he changes his personality, don’t expect a team to hire him soon.