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Sports MAILBAG: Mike Babcock's 'stubborn' coaching style questioned

19:25  12 january  2018
19:25  12 january  2018 Source:   thestar.com

NHL insider criticizes Edmonton Oilers leadership for stubborn resistance to change up special teams

  NHL insider criticizes Edmonton Oilers leadership for stubborn resistance to change up special teams NHL insider criticizes Edmonton Oilers leadership for stubborn resistance to change up special teamsFormer NHL GM Craig Button, who was director of player personnel for Dallas Stars in 1999 when that team won the Stanley Cup, has let it rip on the Edmonton Oilers coaching staff for their problems with the team’s failing power play and atrocious penalty kill, which has been the worst in the NHL for more than a year.

Michael Babcock Jr. (born April 29, 1963) is a Canadian professional ice hockey head coach , currently serving as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL). He previously spent 10 seasons as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings

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Mike Babcock and his "stubborn" coaching style seem to have struck a nerve with Leaf Nation.

Maple Leafs fans, it appears, want to see their favourites (insert the name of any player under 22) and not Babcock's favourites (Roman Polak, Zach Hyman and Leo Komarov) play important roles, believing this will cure whatever it is ails the Leafs.

What you have to realize, is this is the real Mike Babcock.

The Babcock that coached the first year wanted to win, sure, but not enough even to match lines. The result was dead last (and Auston Matthews). Mission accomplished.

The Babcock that coached last year gave every youngster minutes -- in the 15-to-18 range -- whether they deserved it, earned it, whatever. The kids were going to play no matter what. That turned into a fun team, a fun one to watch, and one that (surprisingly) made the playoffs. Mission accomplished.

Leafs’ Auston Matthews scoring but not soaring, Babcock says

  Leafs’ Auston Matthews scoring but not soaring, Babcock says With six goals in the seven games since returning to the Maple Leafs lineup on Dec. 23, Auston Matthews certainly is putting up the kind of number that impress. Coach Mike Babcock said his star centre, though, is not quite all the way back.“The measure of you people is whether he scored or not,” said Babcock. “The measure for me is does he skate? Does he play 200 feet? Does he dominate the game? “Anytime you’ve been out for periods of time like he has, you don’t skate as good as you normally do. So that’s probably still in process.

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The Babcock that coaches this year has raised the bar significantly. Making the playoffs changed everything. Minutes, like trust, is earned. Play poorly, play soft, mail it in, and Babcock will go to a trusted (if less talented) veteran who will play "the right way."

This is the real Babcock, not the teddy bear by comparison who coached the first two seasons. This is the guy Brendan Shanahan hired. This is the system the team will play. These are the rules the players will play by. That some fans don't like it is not surprising. Heck, some players don't like it.

Babcock believes the team, and the players that stick with his system, will be better in the long run. So this can only be judged in the long run.

Remember, Babcock said there'd be pain.

To the Mailbag.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin;

As you well know I am not a fan of Jake. Gardiner. That said. I'm starting to believe the fact that Mike Babcock is doing more harm than good with his younger players, and his crazy in-outs of his lineups every game. Bringing up players who deserve a shot and play well. Then sitting them out or sending them back to the minors in order to play His So Called Favourites. Hyman is so out of place on the Matthews line its not making any sense. He would serve better, not only for himself, and the team playing a checking role on the 3rd or 4th line. He is not doing himself or Matthews/Nylander a favour while being a checker on that line and yes I understand the need for a two way player there, but one who has some skills around the net and not hands of stone! Babcock has so many better skilled players at his disposal with the Marlies and on the team itself and being stubborn for Hyman and other players is not helping this team. There are so many options for this team. So I don't quite understand his lineups choice's . Fans with a little knowledge of the game have questions. Some of us for over 60 years (not a expert in coaching though) but has seen a thing or two in our life, not understanding his logic of better of better D- Fence while killing the O-Fence. And should at the very least try not to embarrass us with his snub answers to legit questions. We would like to think. We who, grew up around the game and the game has been a huge part of our lives for so many years deserve quality answers to quality questions. Maybe where not at the Babcock's level, but where not stupid either. And some of his explanations are in effect a brush off and to reminds us That He is All Mighty when it comes to the Leafs.

Why Babcock likes Polak and Komarov

  Why Babcock likes Polak and Komarov Going into a break with a playoff spot well in hand, the Maple Leafs are 11 points clear of their nearest pursuer -- for third place -- in the Atlantic Division.Granted, most of the others have three, or four games in hand. Still it's a nice bulge, even if the Leafs have left a few points on the table in the last two games.But a large aspect of Leafs Nation does not seem happy. It seems to me Maple Leafs fans are never quite happy unless they get to complain about some aspect of their team.Three themes have emerged: Roman Polak, Leo Komarov and Mike Babcock's coaching decisions.

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Thanks for taking the time. Good stuff

Mike.B

ANSWER: Thanks Mike. I think this is an important letter, for its tone. I'm used to dealing with Babcock's brush-off answers, so I never take them personally. I sort of chuckle.

But his style does seem to be rankling the fan base. Yes, you want answers. (And those of us in the room try to get them for you, and try our best to explain his decisions, which is what my Polak-Komarov story was about).

The level of animosity developing toward Babcock is approaching what I remember about Ron Wilson. Fans hated his smarminess and when the fans turned, that's what got him fired.

The difference here is Babcock has a good team that is in a good position. Fans want to see their favourites play, not Babcock's favourites. I'm going to lean on Babcock's side here, that this is a work in progress, very early in a rebuild, and young players have earn minutes and his trust, especially when playoff position is on the line.

QUESTION: Last year was an enjoyment to watch the Leafs last year while buzzing the opponents and creating great hockey.This year boring seems to fit and for better or worse I turn the channel and watch Nova. Mr. Babcock is losing his following.

Babcock worries about Leafs’ conditioning after break

  Babcock worries about Leafs’ conditioning after break Babcock worries about Leafs’ conditioning after breakThose affects are not considered major: The players were given workout plans by the Leafs sports sciences staff, and are expected to follow it even if they are visiting beaches in Florida, California and Mexico.

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Why is Mike Babcock so stubborn ? Should the Leafs be buyers or sellers? When did Jake Gardiner get good again? At the time, he seemed to be getting victimized regularly for defensive gaffes and I questioned why Coach Babcock kept using him ahead of other D men, who I thought provided a lot

Rob.

ANSWER: They are less fun to watch this year because they (mostly Babcock) are more concerned with playoff performance. Expectations are higher.

QUESTION: Kevin,

Read your blog today (as always) and I agree with your view on Leaf fans always finding something to complain about. Have to admit it gets frustrating some nights as the team follows the Shani-plan, which I think I forget from time to time.

I like Polak, tough shot blocker and Leo. My question is in watching Dermott. I was really impressed, speed, carrying the puck up ice, seems like a solid defenceman. I mean do you think even a Drew Doughty could really bring the Leafs a Cup? Or as I think, continue to follow the plan and develop internally ?

Ken W

ANSWER: Folks are right to be high on Dermott, but let's not put too much pressure on him. He's just learning his way in the NHL. This is not a video game, where you take a guy with a certain skill level, drop him in the lineup and he performs to that level. There will be a real learning process here.

As for Doughty, if he's available the Leafs (and all the other Cup contenders) will pursue him. Last I saw, the Kings were pretty good, so I doubt he's getting traded.

QUESTION: I read your article on the Internet, loved you thoughts.....I am a little late sending one back to you.....however, unless I have missed sports items and this has been mentioned before...I would like to know why they don't make Jake Gardiner a left winger......he likes being up there but never realizes his defensive responsibilities ...... has this every been mentioned before.....?

Refreshed Leafs put the focus back on defence

  Refreshed Leafs put the focus back on defence Auston Matthews and his Maple Leafs teammates say they will tighten up defensively as they head into the post-break schedule, where they expect increased checking and intensity from their opposition over the final 37 games of the season.Matthews and his teammates met with the coaching staff Monday in their first practice after the break, and the message was clear: renew the focus on defence or risk dropping out of the team’s current fourth-place standing in the Eastern Conference.© Mark Blinch Auston Matthews is slightly ahead of his pace of a year ago, with 19 goals and 33 points in 35 games. He had 18 and 31 after 35 games as a rookie.

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Thank you, Ron C

ANSWER: We've mused about this before. Gardiner was a forward for most of his minor hockey/high school years. I've always thought he'd have made a great centre.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin,

I can’t help but notice that JVR has been one of our more consistent offensive threats this year. He may not have the footspeed of some of the youngsters but I feel like his skill set is something that no one else can replace, either on the current roster or among our AHL prospects (Matthews excluded).

He’s on pace to score 35+ goals this season, which would be a career high. If it were up to you would you be doing anything possible to extend him or is he a luxury we have to let walk?

ANSWER: I don't know if I do "anything possible" to sign him, because that sounds like a lot of money. Still, they don't have anyone like him in the pipeline. I do worry a little bit about signing players who have career years when their contract is up. If a reasonable deal can be done, do it.

a man wearing a suit and tie© Toronto Star file photo

QUESTION: Good morning Kevin;

I enjoyed your article and perspective on Polak and Komarov...they do play with much grit...I wish Leafs had a couple more like them.

I don't understand why people complain so much about them....or Hyman for that matter; without him on that line, both Matthews and Nylander would not have as much room to do what they do best....can't see them constantly digging in the corners and being banged up.

Now to Bozak, giving the opportunity....would you trade Bozak for Pacioretty.....having discussions regarding this. I would given the opportunity....veteran who can skate, plays with an edge, can score and although a left winger can play centre. I realize that this opens up other possible options/issues depending on how you look at it....my own personal view, he is also much better defensively than Bozak.

Maple Leafs appear to be grooming Matthews for captaincy

  Maple Leafs appear to be grooming Matthews for captaincy There were a couple of things worth noting following the Maple Leafs overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.First, Auston Matthews came out to talk to reporters.Usually, it's the players who did something remarkable who speak -- the goal scorers, the goats, the goalie. And, in the case of a loss, it's the captain, who speaks for the team.© Toronto Star file photoThe Leafs, of course, don't have a captain.Up till recently, Morgan Rielly has been the go-to team-leader voice for losses. Lately, Matthews has taken over the role. It's surely a sign they are grooming him to wear a C. Or at least an A.

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Thank you for your time

Greg B

ANSWER: I might trade Bozak for Pacioretty (doubt Montreal would have) early in the season or last summer. I worry about bringing in a big-time player at the deadline, though. Players who come in as role players fit in okay. But players who have to learn special teams, and who have bigger roles, and take the job of a friend have a harder time making an impact in the playoff drive.

QUESTION: Babcock is stubborn. I can not for the life of me understand why Matthews is not on the 1st power play unit. Really ??? Bozak and Kadri start on the power play?????
Peter F

ANSWER: The power play unit that starts is the power play unit that is freshest. If Matthews line draws the penalty then they've played for 40 seconds, then Bozak's group comes out. Usually, anyway. So there really isn't a "first unit" and "second unit."

QUESTION: My question is why don’t the coach play the young guns on the same line like Matthews, Nylander and Marner, I do think it would turn the team around big time Go Leafs GO

Tom H

ANSWER: That's what power plays are for. Babcock likes to spread around his scoring talent. He puts a scorer, with a playmaker and a corner-guy. Except for the Bozak line. There's no real corner guy there.

If you put Matthews, Marner and Nylander together, you're turning Matthews into the corner guy (I don't see the other two doing it, do you?). I don't want Matthews in the corner, even though he's really good at it.

QUESTION: Read your article today referring to Polak and Komarov.

I agree (along with friends) with the points made regarding Meat-head-mentality which seems to be Babcock's vision.

It's true you need some brute force to remove people from in front of the net, but we see increasingly Polak taking stupid penalties because of his supposed tough style. I don't see any benefit to Komarovs' style; its robbing us of sure points and his ability is surely hampering the production of the rest of the line. He just can't seem to shoot (except for the one top corner two games ago).

Babcock not hitting panic button despite Leafs' slide

  Babcock not hitting panic button despite Leafs' slide Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock didn’t change his lines at practice Wednesday. He didn’t change his power play. About the only thing he shifted was his fourth line, where he put Dominic Moore back at centre in favour of Frederik Gauthier — but that was just practice.With his team in a three-game slide, and losers of six of their last eight, the opposite was expected. And that was certainly the tone many of the questions took on after the practice ended.A line shuffle? Maybe try and get some of his slumping scorers out of a funk?“This is how I look at it,” Babcock responded.

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The same can be said for the first line arrangement; Hyman just is not the calibre of the other two, cannot take or make passes, and even his digging in the corner rarely produces results, which again brings us to Babcock, and his stubborn thoughts.

-10 years old, its clear he hasn't changed a bit...

"on March 29, 2008 versus the St. Louis Blues, head coach Mike Babcock sent out his starting line of Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, and Kirk Maltby, reuniting the "Grind Line" once again" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grind_Line)

While it is true Hyman figured out how to score in Michigan, he just is not in the same league. It IS true his work ethic is fantastic, but that still does not write his ticket to the first line.

I saw in an article earlier that Babcock was envious of Tampa, their long list of centres, and his wish to have a team full of just centres.

That is clear where we mostly have left centres and a right winger taking the strong faceoff. The only exception, Bozak being a right, but he will likely be gone at the end of this year, an UFA.

Could Hyman with his good work ethic relinquish to where he belongs and lead and centre the fourth line. His faceoffs are now 46% getting better each year. Next year I expect to see Gauthier full-time, so those two are interchangeable for 3 or 4

I'll admit I did see this suggested by one of your competitors last June, but I arrived at it another way, by way of left/right selection.

I hope the UFA clause takes care of Komarov, Bozak, Polak, Moore and JVR (through a trade) and Babcock has no choice but to bring up and use Gauthier, Leivo and Kapanen

Lets hope Shanahan has the vision to see the transformation going to skating and can convince Babcock to morph along with the rest

Bill F

ANSWER: Thanks Bill. The best researched letter I've ever gotten. I'll admit, I haven't thought of Hyman as a potential bottom-six centre, but the idea is intriguing. I'm less hopeful than I used to be that either Gauthier or Leivo are long-term solutions or replacements for bonafide NHL players. I still like Kapanen. And I think Carl Grundstrom is going to be an important Leaf. Komarov's heir-apparent.

The team is undergoing change at an interesting time. When Nikita Zaitsev returns, I imagine Roman Polak will be gone, perhaps not waived but sent looking for Nikita Soshnikov on Lupul Island. I think Komarov will prove his worth to the doubters down the stretch drive and into the playoffs.

Veteran voices help get Leafs out of tailspin

  Veteran voices help get Leafs out of tailspin Neither Patrick Marleau nor Ron Hainsey scored on Saturday night, but each played a big role in Toronto’s skid-stopping 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.And if the Maple Leafs are to become one of the elite teams in the second half of the NHL season and into the playoffs, it will be in part because of the contribution Marleau and Hainsey have made in shaping their young teammates.Both have stellar resumes. Marleau is in his 20th season, Hainsey his 15th. Marleau remains a gifted skater with an ability to score. Hainsey is a Stanley Cup champion whose attention to detail brings out the best in others.

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QUESTION: Hey Kevin,

Love the mailbag, great venue for fans to voice our opinions and either get them validated, rarely, or shot down, with proper data to support why not.

On to the question though. Gardiner….need I say more, as much as the guy has speed, puck moving ability, and agility, it seems he’s constantly undoing his upside with glaring errors that either cost the team the zone, a goal, or sometimes it seems, even a game. But, Coach Babcock still uses him consistently and even ahead of other players that in my humble opinion, seem to offer safer options. I mean, the position is defence right? Sometimes it seems Jake forgets that and is so focused in one direction that it’s like we have four forwards and one lone defenceman to guard the fort. I’m not saying let’s suck all the offence out of him, but it would be a better option to let the forwards have a little more leash to play offensively and keep the d-men playing more responsible defensively. The odd rush is fine, but it seems we’re prone to making end to end rushes without support, or pinching at terrible times.

My two cents for what it’s worth.

Your turn,

Thanks again,

John L from Kingston

ANSWER: It's not just Gardiner. It's not just Rielly. It's almost league-wide. Teams have been using one defenceman as a kind-of fourth forward. It's the way to create odd-man rushes, it's the way to create offence, it's the way to gain the zone. There's a risk-reward to it. Some do it better than others. Some make mistakes. It's the trend. You gotta live with it, or watch a lot of 1-1 hockey.

QUESTION: Hi Uncle Kev,

Have you heard any whispers of potential trades with the Leafs as of late for their push towards to the playoffs? One name I heard of was Joe Thornton. Do you think he makes sense? I just find it hard as to how the Leafs can absorb his $8 million salary, even if it expires this year. Thornton with Marleau reunited as a 2nd or 3rd line would be great for the playoffs. But I think we more importantly need to trade for a 3rd or 4th D. I am rarely one to always suggest the need for trade, but I think something needs to be done. Maybe its in the off season and you roll with what you got. But you got players like Kapanen who don't see regular action, who in fact should be. So why not trade him for something useful? Or maybe he's in their plans but just takes more seasoning. Anyways, end of rant

Justin P

ANSWER: There's an undercurrent thought that Jumbo Joe is coming to Toronto. If the price is right -- and to get him under the cap, salary would need to be shed -- I'd be they'd do it. I agree though that help on D is more important.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin
Great article today.
I couldn’t agree with you more that Babcock and some of his decisions are being constantly questioned in Leafs Nation at the moment. I am on a lot of the sports fan blogs, and the issue of Polak, Komarov and Gardiner’s play and ice time is a constant topic of conversation.
I don’t agree with all the vitriol directed towards Polak ignoring the obvious grit he brings to the team’s backend nor Komarov’s upfront. I do wonder why Babcock plays Komarov on power plays and 3 on 3 overtime where offence rules the day. Does he really believe that he’s better around the net than Matthews or JVR? I’d like to see him play a tough 12-14 minutes a night on the 4th line and PK. Leafs offence has dried up and it’s time to put the best scorers and playmakers back together on two stacked lines and allow them to do what they do best. Couldn’t they continue that setup in the playoffs as well? Your thoughts.

Annie P

ANSWER: When he's on the power play Komarov, like JVR, is supposed to be the "net-front" presence, taking the beating from the goalie and the defenceman. I'm sure Matthews would do a better job at it, but his talents are better used passing and shooting. Again, the Leafs remain imperfect, a work in progress. Babcock will play his veterans over and over again until his youngsters earn their minutes via earning his trust. The bar is higher this year. I think that's coming. We've seen Marner make great strides the last month.

QUESTION: You know one would think Matthews would be just a wee bit more physical on his forecheck and beyond ! That stick only check is feeble and shows his in ability to be a balance player! FAR from what you cabbage town hypers have him throned up as ! THE guy is a big skating wimp when it comes to physical play !

Cooper

ANSWER: Are you from Edmonton?

QUESTION: Agree that Babcock is a great coach but there’s only so much he can do. This team has talent but is not a playoff team!! Early exit is what I see-first round.

The defence is one of the worst in the NHL as the shots against indicate. Feel really sorry for Andersen who has won most of the games for the Leafs this year. It's blatantly obvious that Gardiner is far more of a liability than benefit from his offence.

Its also obvious that Rielly is over-rated -is top 4 defenceman not top 2 and has no business being in the NHL All Star game. It's in Lamoriello's hands now to make the changes necessary to take this team to the next level and playoff ready.

Babcock is not a miracle worker.

John S

ANSWER: Are you from Montreal?

QUESTION: Hey Kevin,

I was wondering why the Leafs do not pull the trigger on a Tanev deal from the Canucks using Leivo, Carrick and perhaps other pieces not named Marner, Nylander or Kapanen. I also wonder why Freddie Gauthier is not used on the Matthews power play team standing him in front of the net for screening, deflections, and rebounds much like the Van Riemsdyk role on the Marner set. I believed he would excel in this role much like other big lugs in the past e.g. Phil Esposito, Dave Andreychuk to name a few.

A Leaf Nation old guy Rick

ANSWER: I'm sure the Leafs would jump at Tanev-for-Leivo/Carrick/et al. The Canucks, however, might want a little more. Healthy scratches on one team do not draw a top-four defenceman from another. ... Interesting thought on Gauthier, though. Kinda like it.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin,

Happy 2018. I've watched the Leafs recently, and what I see is a general lack of rhythm in their play. Do you see this too? Their transitions out of their end seem always to start from a standstill, and then run into turnovers to aggressively forechecking opponents. Is the problem that the Leafs don't have defenders who can skate the puck out, or is it that teams are hemming them in and forcing them to chip out? If it's the former, why is it that the Leafs seem to lean on defenders like Polak who aren't great at zone exits? Why not go to a more fluid skater like Rosen, at least to try? If it's the latter, surely the leafs coaching staff can solve this. After all, I don't see other teams hemmed in in the same way. If other teams have "solved" the Leafs in this way, that seems like an issue for the coaching staff to solve. Don't you think?

I can't help but think that the offence is stagnant because the Leafs can't find a way to use their speed against other teams - they don't even look fast these days. They look best when either Matthews or Nylander or Marner break out of their zone with the puck and use their speed to put defences on their heels. I know Babcock loves his pure defenders, but do the Leafs need better skaters on defence to better allow their talented forwards to take advantage of their speed? I'd love your thoughts on this.

Brandon S

ANSWER: I agree the Leafs zone exits (to use a trendy term) are an issue. To me, their wingers are the issue, a little soft at the blue line and failing to support the defencemen moving the puck. I'm not as high as the coach is on Ron Hainsey, and despite my story explaining the coach's use of Polak, there are real weaknesses there. Carrick did not take a step forwards. They're rightly high on Dermott, but he won't be the solution right away, and it's unfair to burden him with that.

QUESTION: There has been some negative reaction regarding Babcock not playing Matthews and Nylander enough in the last four minutes of the Ottawa game but I agree with Babcock, Mathews and Nylander didn't in my opinion play hard enough both ends of the ice these are two top players that haven't earned the right to be stars in the NHL yet and I still think they have to earn it by playing hard all game both ends.

ANSWER: Well said.

QUESTION: Hey Kev

I often wonder how good the Leafs could really be without Jake Gardiner on the backend...( still learning how to play the position????) most games he's just a ticking time bomb ....you need a baseball glove to catch most of his passes...his downside defensive follies far exceeds his offensive upside.....this guy has hit his apex........which is not good enough for the team to move forward........and Marner on the wing instead of Hyman. I like Hyman's effort nite in nite out, but Marner would open up some more room for both Matthews and Nylander.....
Cheers
Wayne

ANSWER: Poor Jake. He's really getting it in this mailbag.

QUESTION: Good Afternoon!

Really enjoyed the Polak article this morning. Perfect amount of sarcasm and wit, and learned a lot about Babcock's coaching strategies, I hadn't really realized before.

I'd love to see something similar regarding Jake Gardiner, because I have to admit I'm one that gives him quite a hard time.

Thanks again for the good read!

ANSWER: More Jake, huh. Part of the answer is, who else do they have? I will say this about Gardiner. I, like most of you, think he's poor defensively, but only in the regular season. He was fantastic in the playoffs. I don't think he's got the greatest hockey IQ, and when he has time to think, he makes poor decisions. In the playoffs, he doesn't have time to think. He reacts. And he usually reacts well. When the game is fast, he's terrific. But in the middle/muddle of the regular season, he is what he is.

QUESTION: Hey Kevin, I enjoyed your latest article on Babcock and snarl players.

As a Leaf fan for over 50 years, I can't believe how poor they are in their defensive zone, especially with their coverages! Other teams not only hem them in for extended periods (far too long), but the Leaf players hardly touch the puck. The points always seem wide open, with cross passes and clear shots getting through, and the opposition rarely gets knocked down in front of the net. Gardiner is totally lost in his own zone, afraid of his own shadow, and never wins a one-on-one battle, or "covers" anyone properly. It's as if he was never taught how to play in the defensive zone. His weak, stick checks are so infuriating.

This all sounds to me like poor coaching/philosophies/teaching. If they don't improve vastly in this area, they will never win in the playoffs, imo.

Cheers

Bret

ANSWER: Can't add much to that.

QUESTION: Hello Kevin:

I’ve been a big Maple Leaf fan since 1959, and even though I relocated with my family to Victoria, British Columbia seventeen years ago, I am still a big supporter of the team (while losing many friendly bets along the way). I subscribe to the TV package that allows me to watch all hockey games every week, so you could say that I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to hockey. Go Leafs Go!! In my mind I can still hear that guy up in the Greys at Maple Leaf Gardens yelling back in the 60’s. Anyway, I am so proud of the Leafs recent accomplishments and look forward to their hoisting the Stanley Cup in the not too distant future. I read the Star on a daily basis and really look forward to all of the positive comments about “our” Maple Leafs.

was reading your recent article ( January 3rd, 2018--Thoughts on Johnny Bower Day and The World Juniors) and I got to thinking, “Hey, why couldn’t the Maple Leafs actually declare one day in early January or February every year as Johnny Bower Day? Because of his athletic skills and down to earth nature, he was and always will be a legend in Toronto and fun events could be held on that day to keep his memory alive, i.e. some sort of Minor League Tournament at the Air Canada Centre, or a yearly NHL hockey game held at the ACC in the afternoon similar to the Leafs 100th Anniversary game recently, open to the public and not just to subscribers, as well as a Skateathon. These are just a few of my thoughts but I’m sure that if Brendan Shanahan took control of this he would take it much further!!

Just an idea but what do you think? Please keep me posted. Thanks.

John McB

ANSWER: Great ideas here. Let's see if MLSE-types read this all the way to the end.

Veteran voices help get Leafs out of tailspin .
Neither Patrick Marleau nor Ron Hainsey scored on Saturday night, but each played a big role in Toronto’s skid-stopping 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.And if the Maple Leafs are to become one of the elite teams in the second half of the NHL season and into the playoffs, it will be in part because of the contribution Marleau and Hainsey have made in shaping their young teammates.Both have stellar resumes. Marleau is in his 20th season, Hainsey his 15th. Marleau remains a gifted skater with an ability to score. Hainsey is a Stanley Cup champion whose attention to detail brings out the best in others.

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This is interesting!