The Toronto Maple Leafs have done it—they’ve gone and fired head coach Mike Babcock early in the fifth season of his eight year contract. Leafs’ PR tweeted the following message in just the last hour:
“Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan announced today that Mike Babcock has been relieved of his coaching duties and Sheldon Keefe has been named the Club’s new head coach.”
Babcock had come under increasing scrutiny from fans and media alike as the Maple Leafs slid ever further down the standings with each passing game. But who are Maple Leafs’ fans and the Toronto media going to blame now if things continue in the same direction?
The media circus surrounding Babcock had to be a major distraction to Maple Leafs’ players this season, but it also provided a shield of protection for big spending general manager Kyle Dubas. With Babcock’s departure and the immediate hiring of a new head coach (who himself will have a certain grace period before being left open to attack), the guillotine of scrutiny must now fall where it has truly belonged all along—directly on Kyle Dubas.
If the team fails to turn things around immediately and significantly, Dubas will no longer have the protection of fans and media railing against Babcock for all of its woes. Of course, there’s usually at least a slight bump upward with the hiring of a new head coach (as players work extra hard in an attempt to enter his good graces).
Even so, the Maple Leafs are not as well constructed as many of their fans have been led to believe by the Toronto media hype machine. When (not if) the team fails to meet expectations yet again, Kyle Dubas is the one that will be left holding the bag of blame. While he didn’t entirely assemble this underachieving group himself, he’s certainly left his mark on it through trades, signings, and grossly overpaying players like William Nylander.
The Nylander debacle alone set the disastrous precedent that Dubas is ripe for the picking when it comes to contract negotiations. And deals like giving away Nazem Kadri for the yet to score a goal (and well known defensive liability) Tyson Barrie are sure to come home to roost whether Barrie ultimately pans out or not—because good luck signing him to a reasonable contract as an unrestricted free agent next summer if he suddenly and intensely catches fire for the rest of the season.
What’s more, Barrie’s services were never really required in Toronto in the first place, what with near clone Morgan Rielly on the team. How many NFL teams have 2 quarterbacks on the field at once? It’s the same thing with NHL d-men quarterbacking the power play—one is all you need. One is all you can reasonably hope to give quality power play ice time to. Barrie’s offensive struggles were inevitable this season, unless Dubas’ plan was to take the knees out from under Rielly.
Yes, it is 100% Kyle Dubas who’s to blame for the Maple Leafs’ current crisis. And now that scape goat Mike Babcock is gone, who are fans and media going to come after next if not the underperforming players? The answer: Kyle Dubas!
Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the comments section below and let me know what you think. Will the Maple Leafs turn things around under new coach Sheldon Keefe? And if so, how long will the good times last—are the Leafs a Stanley Cup contender in 2019-20 or not?