Head coach Mike Babcock has been fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs after a disappointing 9-10-4 start to the season, the team announced.
Babcock signed an eight-year, $50 million contract on May 25, 2015 with the hope he could lead the Maple Leafs to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1967.
Mikes commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a release. At this time, we collectively felt that it was best to make a change to Sheldon Keefe. Sheldons record with the Marlies in terms of development and on-ice success during his time in our organization has compelled us all to feel that he is the right person to take us to the next stage in our evolution.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reports Shanahan flew to Arizona on Wednesday to deliver the news in person along with general manager Kyle Dubas.
eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],thehockeywriters_com-box-3,ezslot_6,625,0,0]));The Flames, after finishing atop the Westen Conference standings last season, got bounced in a mere five games by Colorado, and are now at the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They are fortunate to not be further behind than they are, playing in a weak Pacific Division.
McKenzie also reports the move to relieve Babcock is being billed as an organizational decision, something Dubas felt was important to any decision and that the message was not getting through. They decided a new voice is required.
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It is being billed as an organizational decision. Something that Dubas believed was necessary but fully supported by Shanahan and the Maple Leaf hierarchy. They felt the message was not getting through and a new voice is required. Shanahan and Dubas will be speaking to media.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun spoke with Babcock over the phone and provided the following statement:
“Larry Tanenbaum talked me into going to Toronto. I would have never gone until I met Larry. Hes one of the finest people Ive ever met. Had an absolutely riot and met another friend for life in Lou Lamoriello. I thought we did an amazing job taking a franchise from where it was to where we had 100-point seasons, we set franchise records if Im not mistaken, got into the playoffs. Im disappointed, we didnt have the start to the year we wanted and thats on me.
“I want to thank the fans, I want to thank the media, I want to thank the city, it was spectacular, I loved every second of it. And I wish the new group nothing but success. Morgan Rielly has been here the whole time. I cant thank him enough. And all the players I got an opportunity to coach. Its been fantastic and I wish them nothing but success.
After missing the playoffs in his first season behind the bench, Toronto posted a 40-27-15 in 2016-17 to earn their first postseason appearance since 2013, thanks in large part to the arrivals of rookie forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander as well as goalie Frederik Andersen. The Leafs fell in the opening round to the Washington Capitals in six games, but there was hope in the organization and fan base that the team was moving in the right direction.
Babcock led the Leafs to 49 wins and a 105-point season in 2017-18, their best point total in franchise history. Their regular season success ended with playoff disappointment as the Leafs fell to the rival Boston Bruins in seven games in the first round.
Year four under Babcock saw the Maple Leafs put up 100 points during the regular season once again, but were met with a similar fate in the playoffs. Torontos season ended with a Game 7 opening round loss at TD Garden for the third time in seven years as the Blue and White were hammered by the Bruins, 5-1.
Babcock and the Maple Leafs entered this season with the most pressure on them in years after locking up Matthews, Marner and Nylander to long-term, big-money deals plus adding a handful of new players to the lineup.
Following this season, the 56-year-old Babcock still has three years and $18.75 million left on his contract.
Prior to joining the Maple Leafs, Babcock spent a decade with the Detroit Red Wings, winning a Stanley Cup in 2008. He spent his first two years as an NHL head coach with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in his rookie season in 2002-03.
1. At some point you have to fire somebody. Coaching is ultimately a question of results. The results have been ass. As an oh-so-clever numbers-based franchise we ought to be process-oriented but the process also appears to be bad unless you are exceedingly fond of Tyson Barrie denting the end boards with more loud, rubbery failure. In those rare moments I get perspective on this infinitely frustrating team, I can appreciate the humour in a nerd site finally getting its nerdy GM and having the team promptly turning into a Corsi monster that achieves jack shit else. Aside from those moments, though, I have one recurring thought: this aint good enough.
Mike Babcock gets blamed for his roster and his interview quotes and a thousand things that are either not his fault or not faulty. That only excuses him so much when the team loses, at last count, 398 regulation games in a row. This team has too many players who are too good for them to be this bad, at 5v5, on the powerplay, and whenever else. The assistant coaches Paul MacFarland and Dave Hakstol seem to have had their own entry coincide with a sharp and embarrassing decline, and Im not married to either having continuing employment, but either Mike Babcock can make this work or he cant. If the Leafs are going to make a run at this season, he has to do so now, or ideally last week. If he cant and we arent going to aim at tanking into the top ten so we dont cede our first to Carolina, well, you need to replace him.
2. Stop talking about trading Nylander. I thought I was the sickest I could possibly be of this shit, but as with everything bad this season I have found hidden depths of annoyance in myself. Our team has approximately two players who should feel good about how their seasons have gone, and those two players are Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Yes, Nylander is imperfect and blond and divisive and whatever else and hes also one of the only guys on this team who gets to the offensive zone without looking like a tourist whos about to get kidnapped and have his kidneys stolen. I do not care if your Etobicoke Uncle and radio show call-ins want to trade him so the Leafs can rent some defenceman theyve never seen who gets power play points. The full and complete response to Trade Nylander stuff at this point is please just shut the fuck up.
3. Tyson Barrie, man, what is this? I didnt think Tyson Barrie was as good as his reputation. I also dont buy that Mike Babcock broke him personally. Hes just been bad. I dont know what else to say about it. Trade him in a month or so if you want, if someone will give you something for him; normally I would wait for his value to regress positively but I dont know how long we have for that to happen. I buy he has talent and Im sure hes as unhappy about this as everyone else. But if I look at you and Justin Holl and Cody goddamn Ceci and I cant immediately say youve done the best of the bunch, that is not adequate for anyone with pretensions to being a Top Four defenceman.
4. Knives out for Dubas. Everyone who resented Kyle Dubas, the [aggressive air quotes] analytics GM, is just loving this. Mostly it seems like men past 40 who seem to have bypassed the buy a sports car and have an affair stages of their midlife crises and proceeded directly to hate someone younger than you.
The temptation is to respond to all of these guys with an ok boomer and call it a day, but you know what? Dubas does bear responsibility for this team. The thing is: everyone in this business who looked at this team had them as a top-three team in the Atlantic, and I dont count Habs fans on comment boards who called for them to tank because they do that every year and will do it every year to come. This team should be better than this, has been better than this, and has the ability to be better than this in the future. If youre cutting bait on Dubas now you were waiting for a reason to do so.
5. Wheres Johnny? Dubas signature achievement, it must be said, is having a rough season. Signing John Tavares was a huge move for us and I will defend it to the death, and I dont think the most likely issue with him is that he just got old at 29. All the same: John Tavares and his line arent performing now and when they dont do that, were a one-line team, especially with Alexander Kerfoot out. Whether its his finger or fatigue or pressure or the absence of Mitch Marner—smart money is always on all of the above—we need more from him. When we get it, this team will look very different. Until we get it, theyre going to struggle.
If the Leafs have another few weeks like the last few weeks, they will be sufficiently out of the playoff race that even a massive turnaround probably doesnt get them there. Id expect Mike Babcock to be most definitely unemployed, for one thing. For another, as mentioned above, the 1st-rounder we had to give up to trade Patrick Marleaus contract—lets all pause here for the people who want Lou Lamoriello back—is protected. If the Leafs pick in the top ten this year, they keep their first and give next years instead. The team probably has too much talent to do anything like a genuine tank, although they sure could have fooled me the last month. That said, if you do get to this disaster scenario and Freddie Andersen gets, I dont know, a gently sprained ankle around mid-January…
7. This sucks. I was very dismissive of the possibility the Leafs would miss the playoffs. I did not think it was realistic a team that was consistently at least good would get this bad this fast. Even if you use the since January 1st cutoff that everyone loves these days, the Leafs were still a decent expected goals team through the last part of last season. Some of their subsequent loss may be the change in gravity. I still dont think most of it was reasonably likely from where we were. But I didnt foresee it. My bad, commenter from October. My bad.
It still doesnt really make sense that were here. Weve been in much worse places as a franchise and not that long ago, but its falls from a height that hurt. We had expectations. Justified ones, even. And now were crashing.
The most infamous offseason in living memory for this team came off the crash of the it was 4-1 game in 2013. The Leafs FO wildly misevaluated their team and damaged it for years to come. Ultimately I still have enough faith in this front office to not do anything so awful as that. But this is a defining stretch for this iteration of the team—defining in a demanding way. The GM, the old and possibly new coaches, and the players are all going to have their legacies shaped by how things go from here.