The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock one year ago today, which kick-started Kyle Dubas’ vision.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Mike Babcock, it felt like the team was turning over a new leaf (pun intended). After years of disarray, bringing in one of the most successful coaches in NHL history started a new beginning for the franchise.
The Mike Babcock Era wasn’t as bad as it seems. In fact, it was actually pretty successful. Although, Babcock was this tough coach who gave the same interview every night and was more stubborn than a mule, he guided the team to it’s most successful stretch in more than a decade.
When Babcock arrived in Toronto, he cashed his $50M cheque and got to work. It was a brand new challenge for a coach with so many accolades. Prior to joining Toronto, Babcock had made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons, reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times (won once) and led Team Canada to back-to-back gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
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There was nothing Babcock hadn’t accomplished at the professional level, so the idea of coming to Toronto and helping the biggest hockey market in the world win a Stanley Cup was a good opportunity for him. Although the first season was terrible on the ice, it was everything the team wanted. They finished 30th overall, drafted Auston Matthews and the rebuild was officially over.
With Babcock’s guidance, the team miraculously made the playoffs in his second year and overachieved. It didn’t matter if they won or lost every game that post-season; everyone was just happy to be there.
Leafs Fire Mike Babcock One Year Ago Today
However, things changed quickly in Leafs Land following that season. After they got a taste, they wanted more. The team made the playoffs once again, but lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games. Fans were upset with the stubbornness of Babcock, but one more kick at the can was fine. So, fast-forward one year later and the exact same thing happened.
Babcock continued to limit Matthews’ ice-time, played Patrick Marleau way too much and had Frederick Gauthier on the ice in crucial moments. His stubbornness had reached a tipping point, as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins for the third time in seven years.
After back-to-back disappointments and a summer filled with questions about the relationship between Babcock and Matthews, the team decided to keep him for the start of the 2019-20 season. In my opinion, this was a terrible mistake, but he was clearly on a short leash.
His old-school ways started on Opening Night when he decided to scratch Jason Spezza at home. The hometown kid had just signed a contract to play in front of his friends and family but Babcock didn’t give him his moment and instead started him the next game in Columbus. The first 23 games would fly by for Leafs fans and the huge losses would pile up.
As November progressed, the Toronto Maple Leafs kept allowing goal after goal and following a 4-2 loss in Vegas, which was the team’s sixth loss in a row, the Babcock Saga ended and the Sheldon Keefe Era officially began.
The stubbornness of Babcock will always be his narrative and the stories that came out after he left will always haunt him. His old-school mentality of playing phycological mind-games is something that doesn’t work anymore, nor should it ever have.
From the day that Babcock got fired and Keefe arrived, it started a new beginning in Toronto. Kyle Dubas finally had the man for the job that he wanted and the team was coming together as he wished. With a full off-season and training camp, this season should be different and we can finally start seeing what a post-Babcock Leafs team is all about.