I’m not mad Babcock got fired in and of itself. I did not have undying loyalty to him. I admit I liked him, but I liked how the team was doing a lot less. I’m not mad because I don’t like Sheldon Keefe, mainly because I don’t watch the Marlies a lot to really know anything about him.
I’m mad because the realization that the Mike Babcock era that was supposed to be the a golden age of Leafs success ended in a tire fire, like everything always ends for the Leafs.
It was supposed to be different
When Mike Babcock was hired, it was a huge coup and it was just as the Leafs were swinging back out of the Carlyle-Nonis era that was an even bigger failure.
Brendan Shanahan was the President. He brought in Kyle Dubas and a swath of very intelligent hockey people to revamp the Leafs’ front office. They started investing big in scouting and development. They had a Red Wedding where he fired the whole team staff, it seemed like. He hired Lou Lamoirello to steer the start of their rebuild at the same time as Babcock was hired.
And Babcock was hired to a ridiculous amount of fanfare. People were stalking the Leafs’ private jet status online. It was the original Tavares-sweepstakes, where it seemed like the Leafs for the first time got THE guy to come to Toronto. To CHOOSE Toronto.
Babcock was considered arguably the best coach in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup, went to two other finals. He won a gold medal, maybe two at that point but I can’t remember and don’t care enough to look it up, but he ultimately has won two Olympic gold medals in Vancouver and Sochi. He coached the most dominant hockey team I’ve ever seen in any level of hockey in Team Canada, both at Sochi and in the World Cup. They couldn’t be touched. Sure, they had all kinds of talent, but how did that go for Canada in all the Olympics before Salt Lake or Vancouver?
And the team was doing everything right. They cut bait with bad contracts. They gave playing time to young stars that deserved it. They turned guys like Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly into stars. We tanked and finished last, but even then the underlying numbers seemed better than a last place team would be expected to have. That was credited to Babcock and his coaching magic.
They finally got a goalie in Frederik Andersen. They built through the draft and made many shrewd moves to get young, fast and skilled. They were building the team we always wanted them to build! The Marlies actually won an AHL championship at the same time as the Leafs were building success.
We won the lottery, holy shit we won the lottery! Another sign that things were different, that the Leafs were getting good fortune and EARNING it. They drafted Auston Matthews, they had Mitch Marner and William Nylander. We had Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Andreas Johnsson coming up the system. They added them to the aforementioned Kadri, Rielly, Gardiner, and JVR.
And the reins were passed from the elder Lou off to the young wunderkind, Kyle Dubas. Like things were supposed to happen, all proper like. And holy shit he managed to sign John fucking Tavares! Another star, another time the Leafs actually managed to get THE guy!
Things were exciting! Things were FUN! We were making jokes, sharing memes, dreaming of the Leafs actually winning a Cup in our lifetime.
When did the Leafs stop being fun?
Can you pin-point when it started — or rather than it all stopped? Was it the Lou Lamoirello departure and how that started the initial divide between Leafs fans and Leafs media coverage? Was it the Nylander contract negotiation? Was it the backup situation with Sparks, McElhinney and Pickard? Was it Matthews getting a huge contract, and Marner’s camp immediately starting shit over it? Was it the rest of the shit show that was the Marner negotiation? Was it the Matthews legal troubles that he tried to hide from everyone, including his coach and general manager? Was it when they lost in game 7 the first time, or the second?
All I know is that, for a while now, I’ve not been having fun with the Leafs. I think it was around the time I realized that, maybe, things weren’t any different.
The Toronto Maple Leafs once again became an embarrassment. They managed to be so bad, right when they were supposed to be a serious contender, to get one of the all-time BEST NHL coaches fired after two straight 100+ point seasons. They managed to generate controversy after controversy, they managed to have a completely toxic fanbase lashing out at each other over the anxiety that came with the same realization I was coming to.
They managed to replace him with a coach that has no NHL experience, one that is a long-time friend of the GM. A guy who Dubas allegedly wanted to replace Babcock with last off-season but got blocked by the higher ups meddling with his decision.
Keefe might be a great coach. He might turn everything around for them. That’s not my point here, my point is that this is just added drama and uncertainty, when things were supposed to be clear and clarified and good.
This isn’t a golden organization who can do no wrong. I’m seeing a mess of an organization that can spend money and make some good hockey decisions, but who can’t manage to avoid setting their own god damned house on fire on any given day. You can’t set your watch to them doing the right thing. Now when you watch their weather forecast and call for a sunny day, you can’t help but bring your umbrella anyways — just in case.
Why am I mad about Babcock being fired? Because this time was supposed to be different, and it wasn’t. I’m mad because this isn’t fun anymore.
Regardless of what you think about Babcock or Keefe, how do you feel about the Leafs’ future?
This poll is closed
Great! They’re still on the path to contention.
It was a necessary move but I’m disappointed it came to this
What the actual hell are they doing???