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Sports 8 things ex-Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock did right in Toronto

20:20  21 november  2019
20:20  21 november  2019 Source:   sportsnet.ca

Babcock firing a step toward solving greater Maple Leafs problem

  Babcock firing a step toward solving greater Maple Leafs problem It had to happen. It was merely a matter of when, where, and in which fashion. The Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday, and though it registered as a relative bombshell, it really came as no surprise to anyone with their finger on the pulse of the sport. What started as a season of great hope in Toronto has been derailed through one-quarter of the schedule - punctuated by a six-game losing streak - and someone had to pay. The coach almost always goes first.The timing - the team is in the middle of a road trip and there are 59 games remaining in the regular season - isn't especially eyebrow-raising, either.

Here are eight things the former Leafs coach did right during his blue-and-white tenure. Do the Leafs get Lou Lamoriello (and, by extension, Frederik Andersen) without Babcock ? John Tavares? Do the Leafs operate the perfect tank year and land Auston Matthews without a coach who has the job

I cover the Toronto Raptors, Maple Leafs , Blue Jays and Buffalo Bills. The Maple Leafs have steered clear of controversy and drama for the most part since Babcock arrived in 2015. Some might say that Babcock is doing the right thing and putting the team ahead of any individual player.

a screen shot of Mike Babcock in a suit and tie© Provided by Rogers Media Inc Babcock

It wasn’t all bad. Honestly.

Yes, the easy tact is to scoff at the reeling, injury-ravaged version of the Toronto Maple Leafs inherited by Sheldon Keefe — losers of six straight, 25th overall in points percentage (.478) — and scoop another lump of blame onto Mike Babcock as he takes the fall for a group (lack of) effort.

And the plain fact that Babcock went 0-3 in playoff series during his Toronto tenure makes it difficult to argue that he deserved to be behind the bench for the next post-season.

Results rule.

In saying that, much good did come from the Babcock era, as frustrated as fans are by the state of the club as he exits the city.

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  Toronto Maple Leafs fire Mike Babcock: How Twitter reacted Reporters scrambled to identify where the organization stands, analysts predicted where Babcock's future lies and a few former players offered some hot takes.The news disseminated through Twitter quickly — and analysts, reporters and more around the league offered their initial thoughts on the franchise-altering news as it sank in that Babcock would be replaced by the franchise's AHL head coach, Sheldon Keefe.

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Since the Maple Leafs were bounced from the playoffs, talk has heated about the future of coach Mike Babcock and whether Mitch Marner's upcoming payday will create a salary-cap crunch in Toronto . © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Here are eight things Babcock did right.

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Restoring respectability

Sure, it’s human nature to focus on recent history. The Maple Leafs not starting on time, playing token defence, practically never winning a special-teams battle, and generally giving off a vibe between apathetic and disheartened.

But the arrival of Babcock four and a half years ago injected a sense of optimism and vision that was absent in Leafs culture. Toronto wasn’t considered a serious contender for free agents until Babcock arrived, and the players were less accountable.

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  How much do Toronto Maple Leafs owe Mike Babcock? Babcock's eight-year deal with Toronto was set to last through the 2022-23 season.It'll be in Babcock's bank account.

My beloved Argos do the same thing . Yes, the Leafs have been doing poorly lately. Changing coaches now won’t do much good because of the difficulty in adapting to a new coach . Keep Babcock , and either it becomes clear in a couple of months that he needs to go and there’s still time

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired their head coach , Mike Babcock . The announcement came amid a six-game losing streak. Welcome to The National, the

Simply put: More was given, less was earned.

Do the Leafs get Lou Lamoriello (and, by extension, Frederik Andersen) without Babcock? John Tavares?

Do the Leafs operate the perfect tank year and land Auston Matthews without a coach who has the job security and long-term vision to pull it off?

Yes, Babcock’s message — and it was always his message — wore out, but that bluster and leadership was needed early.

The Leafs he inherited in 2014-15 were an unmitigated disaster. They pole-vaulted from worst to a playoff berth in 2016-17. They set a franchise record with 105 points in 2017-18 and produced their only consecutive 100-point seasons in 2018-19.

Developing and unleashing the best of Morgan Rielly

Absolutely there are players who, sometimes inexplicably, just never managed to squeeze into Babcock’s good books. But there are a few that thrived under the coach.

How Babcock treated the development of Morgan Rielly was brilliant.

Brian Burke on the protocol of firing an NHL head coach

  Brian Burke on the protocol of firing an NHL head coach Brian Burke explained the protocol that goes into firing an NHL head coach, and what comes next for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The post Marlies players can’t say enough about Sheldon Keefe as a coach appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.Although Mike Babcock signed a lucrative eight-year, $50-million contract to join the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015, that kind of payday won’t soften the blow for a motivated, passionate coach when he’s relieved of his job.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have landed what may be the most prized piece on the free agent market this off-season: coach Mike Babcock . Get the latest from The Hockey News right in your inbox. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been mired in the basement of the NHL for several seasons, but the

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock speaks to reporters in Toronto . – (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP, File). After signing the richest coaching contract in NHL history at US million over eight years, Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the last three seasons

Knowing the club wasn’t ready to contend when he arrived but recognizing an elite talent he could mould, Babcock refused to give young Rielly — a naturally offensive defenceman — power-play time and instead forced him to kill penalties and thrust him into uncomfortable defensive situations.

He took the long view with Rielly, then rewarded him with top-unit power-play time and all the O-zone starts he could eat for his breakout 2018-19 campaign, the first time the Leafs resembled a legit contender.

Rielly’s 20-goal, 72-point, plus-24 performance jumped him into the Norris conversation and proved that the Leafs could cultivate their own No. 1 defenceman when the outside world was clamouring for them to trade for one.

The pairing of Rielly with a safe, smart and vocal Cup winner in Ron Hainsey was also key. It’s during those two seasons that Morgan performed his best in both ends.

Defending the defenders

For the bulk of Babcock’s tenure, the coach simply was not equipped with a blue line that could match with the league’s best.

So, while Babcock often deflected blame away from him and onto others — passive-aggressively toward management, and straight-up aggressively toward his goaltender after a porous performance (“the puck went in the net”) — he was staunch in his public support for the NHL-ready defencemen he was given.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs and Mike Babcock have come to terms on a deal that will bring the free agent coach to Ontario's capital. The eight -year deal will reportedly pay Babcock close to million and will also give Babcock some control over personnel decisions. Babcock has been the coach of

The Leaf goes behind the scenes as Mike Babcock arrives in Toronto to be unveiled as head coach of the Maple Leafs .

When Jake Gardiner, who gave his best hockey to Toronto, got booed, Babcock defiantly shot back and sung Gardiner’s praises. (His prediction that the Leafs would be worse off sans Gardiner isn’t wrong… yet.) He knew well the criticism lobbied at stay-at-home guys like Hainsey and Roman Polak, and he stuck up for them too.

And we’ll never forget the time in 2017 when Rielly started taking heat and losing confidence. Babcock came to the podium guns blazing, dropping a Dion Phaneuf reference and sticking up for his favourite player.

“[Rielly]’s just gotta quit thinking and worrying about what anybody else says. He understands the manager and the coach think he’s great, and his mom and dad think he’s great,” Babcock said that day. “I’d spend less time worrying about what anyone else gives you feedback on and just play.”

Knowing a real backup when he sees one

Once Toronto acquired Frederik Andersen, a true No. 1 goalie, Babcock was provided the following backups: Garret Sparks, Michael Hutchinson, Antoine Bibeau, Jhonas Enroth, Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney.

Of that group, only McElhinney is still an established NHL player. He’s the only one Babcock went to bat for (and lost), in the fall of 2018.

No doubt, he could’ve cushioned some of the others with a couple goalie-friendly, confidence-building starts and not been so rigid in his approach to back-to-backs.

Mike Babcock wasn’t given enough runway in Toronto

  Mike Babcock wasn’t given enough runway in Toronto Babcock, who won a Stanley Cup as coach of the Red Wings and two Olympic gold medals coaching Team Canada, but his lack of playoff success with the Maple Leafs led to his departureMuch like Vegas, every act grows old in coaching, and a voice gone stale was part of the reason why the Maple Leafs on Wednesday sent Mike Babcock packing some four-plus years into his record eight-year/$50 million pact to turn around the Blue and White.

But you get what you pay for, and the Maple Leafs have decided not to invest in No. 2 goalies. That’s not on the coach.

Running the tightest practices in hockey

Whenever the Leafs acquired a new player, he was struck by Babcock’s airtight practices. They were conducted with purpose and precision and never dragged on too long.

You can set a stopwatch to a Babcock morning skate: precisely 17 minutes.

“You want to practice how you play. So, it’s getting used to that,” Alexander Kerfoot said. “Every day when you’re here, you’re on. Whether it’s a pre-game skate, practice, game — he wants it to be fast-paced, up-tempo. That’s good.”

Forming some smart combinations

While Babcock absorbed fair blame for being stubborn with his lineup decisions — rarely putting Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner together being the most obvious — he probably wasn’t given enough credit from the line-makers for the chemistry he did find.

The Zach Hyman–John Tavares–Marner trio was one of the top three trios in all of hockey last season, and neither Tavares nor Marner have looked the same without the other this fall.

When the Reilly and Jake Muzzin experiment fell flat, Babcock was able to form an excellent Muzzin–Nikita Zaitsev pairing in time for the Boston series last spring, and they did a great job of limiting the Patrice Bergeron group 5-on-5.

Matthews and William Nylander perform best side by side.

When healthy, the new-look third unit of Ilya Mikheyev–Kerfoot–Kasperi Kapanen looks like a winner.

And were not convinced grinders like Connor Brown and Hyman would’ve enjoyed 20-goal season under any other regime.

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Pushing his assistants to promotion

Fun fact: D.J. Smith’s Senators now have more wins this season (10) than Babcock’s Leafs (nine).

Even though Toronto’s defence and penalty killing have fallen off a cliff since Smith left, and the players themselves loved the fun-loving, keep-it-light nature of “Smitty,” Babcock has never been one to hoard talent or stand in the way of a promotion. (May you all have a boss like that.)

When Smith was considered for the Islanders job (Barry Trotz — not a bad pick), Babcock praised him publicly and predicted he’d make a great bench boss one day, just as he’d supported the career advancement of Paul MacLean, Todd McLellan and Bill Peters before him.

Devoting attention to the faceoff

Babcock is infamous for placing a premium on draws (“You start with the puck”), handing his backup goalie a clipboard and charging him with the task of tracking faceoffs in real time so he could ride the hot hand.

The Leafs he took over in 2015 were dot-challenged, finishing 20th overall with a 49-per cent success rate. Even the last-place Leafs in Babcock’s tank-for-Matthews 2015-16 season leapt to eighth overall (50.6 per cent).

Improvement continued, in part due to Babcock pushing his centres to improve in the dot and in part because he embraced the analytics that proved that taking draws on your strong side yields better results. So, linemates Matthews and Nylander would switch off depending which side of the ice the linesman set up.

Yes, he departs a 2019-20 club with horrid numbers in plenty of categories, but the Maple Leafs do rank No. 1 overall in faceoff winning percentage (53.8 per cent), improving again from their second-overall standing in 2018-19 (53 per cent).

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