This is a common phenomenon in all sports competitions, when a team performs below its capabilities and does not live up to expectations, the head coach usually becomes a scapegoat and is relieved of his duties. And although I don’t think that an unsuccessful season will immediately end Mike Babcock’s career in Toronto, I think that a bad season will not give him the right to make mistakes in the future, in the 2019–20 season.
The leaves are a talented team, with their strengths and weaknesses, like any other team in the league, but on paper they should have a big advantage in the form of one of the best motivating coaches behind them and directing them.
If you are not familiar with Babcock’s record, let me enlighten you. Since Babcock became the coach of Anaheim in 2002-03, he scored 645 victories with 380 losses, 19 draws and 152 losses in overtime / shootouts. He has 61.1% wins. He has one victory in the Stanley Cup and two victories in the Western Conference. He was the coach of the youth team of Canada, who won the gold in 2007, and then the coach of the adult team, who won the gold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. To say that he cannot train is not respectful, but not to say that he is stuck and stubborn in his old methods, it would be stupid.
The third year of the eight-year contract
Before you run into the comments and start writing that this year is already the fourth and not the third, I will tell you that I know it. But when Babcock came to the team, he got one of the weakest compositions in the NHL and he finished last without any options. The last two seasons have become much more revealing in terms of what Babcock can achieve when given the right players.
In the first season, Lifs at the last moment jumped on the bandwagon of the train to the playoffs. They received a second Wilde card and surrendered to Washington in the first round of the playoffs. Honor and praise Babcock for the fact that he was able to press the right buttons and make a team that seemed hopelessly a member of the playoffs.
Last season, Toronto finished third in the Eastern Conference and had every chance of beating the Boston Bruins. The team’s drawbacks were obvious, but Babcock was extremely stubborn in his methods and could adapt better to the situation.
In the upcoming, third * season, there will be no excuses anymore. Anything other than a victory in several playoff series will be a huge disappointment and can seriously shake the Babcock chair. I do not predict that he will be fired, but if he does not find the right solutions with such an abundance of talents in the attack and with one of the league’s best goalkeepers, he will put Kyle Dubas before a very difficult choice.
Babcock needs to use players effectively
The team no longer has Leo Komarov, which means there are an extra 16 minutes of playing time that need to be transferred to someone else or distributed to several people. This means that a place has been opened in the brigade playing in the minority. The same can be said about Tyler Bozak and James Van Rimsdike.
However, this question must be asked. Will Babcock get out of his way and will he step back from his methods for the benefit of the team? Yes, the third line of the team with Terra Kadri in the center and Kasperi Kapanen with Andreas Jonsson will be much stronger at the edges than last year, but in key games there will simply not be enough playing time for everyone to be enough for everyone to be happy.
We know that Babcock loves his checkers and prefers to release them against the strongest links of rivals, but at what point it will become just irrational when the future team captain (Oston Matthews) and a man with a salary of 11 million (John Tavares) will sit on the bench?
Instead, I ask Babcock to use the strengths of his composition. Demand a more reliable game in defense from the first two links, control them. Do not refuse to use them, because the links of Matthews and Tavares together with Frederick Andersen will be the players who bring the team to the place where it wants to be.
We all saw what happened in the playoffs against the Bruins when Matthews was not used for the most part of the series. Babcock didn’t trust him enough and the results speak for themselves. Do not give up star players and the team will be fine.
Among all the negatives, there is one positive point in the Maple Leafs training camp. Babcock seems to have decided to put Matthews in the first brigade of majority realization for Tavares, Mitch Marner, Morgan Reilly and Kadri. Matthews took a place on the left flank. If everything goes according to plan, and Babcock will give this combination enough time, then there is no reason Leaves will not have a better implementation of the majority in the NHL.
In the end, the players are responsible for what happens to their coach, but the coach is also responsible for positioning the players in the positions where they can best succeed. I do not want to take away all the merits and achievements of Babcock as coach, but coaching Maple Leafs is not the same thing as coaching the Canadian team, here we need more adaptability. I hope that babcock will understand this and adapt his coaching philosophy to use the strong qualities of the current version of Maple Leafs.