The recent firing of Mike Babcock was celebrated in some circles and by certain players. It is always unfortunate when anyone loses their job; even if Babcock will be paid millions of dollars post firing - something most of us would never have the luxury of. “Keep Grinding” Babcock had his faults but also had his tried and tested methods. Example: his 17 minute to the second high tempo non nonsense practices. It is also unfortunate to hear players, GM and coaches criticize coaching methods. Did the players, Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan get a free pass? Tuning out a coach after 20 games? Players refusing to play a system seemed to get condoned with the easy choice being firing an Olympic gold medal winning Stanley cup winning coach. Was it not five years ago that Shanahan triumphantly introduced Babcock? What really happened?
A little research reveals that the Toronto Maple Leafs are paying their top three players (Matthews, Tavares and Marner) $33.5m. A look at the top three teams in the Eastern and Western conference as of November 24th revealed some startling facts regarding how much their top three players are paid.
Boston Bruins - $20.7m (Pastrnak, Krejci, Bergeron)
Washington Capitals- $25.3m (Ovechkin, Carlson, Kuznetsov)
New York Islanders -$19m (Lee, Nelson, Boychuk)
Edmonton Oilers - $27m (McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent -Hopkins)
Colorado Avalanche - $21.5m (MacKinnon, Rantanen, Johnson)
St Louis Blues - $21.5m ( O’Rielly, Tarasenko ,Petrangelo)
Does the above look like a coach problem or does it look like someone (Dubas) was not in “simpatico” with the NHL cap? The closest team to the Leafs in top three spend are the Oilers and even with them, its 6m+ lesser than what the Leafs are spending for their top 3.
• You get a below average back-up goalie and cant trade for a better one as you are hamstrung by the cap.
• Your defense and bottom six forwards are on a league minimum or low salary because you chose to reward the top 3 and entertained a circus every summer with threats of hold outs and stubbornness by 21 year old players who are uber talented but never won anything. Compare the Leafs top 3 with the Blackhawks whose top 3 (Toews, Kane, Keith) got their big deals AFTER winning Stanley cups.
• You are forced to give up some heart and soul via Kadri, Hainsey, Marleau, Brown to accommodate the Top 3 + Nylander
•The GM comes out and defends and at best number 5 defenseman (Ceci) by saying he is relatively solid player with some mathematical formula like talk “every tiny thing he does becomes a referendum on whether he’s good or not which is mind boggling to me because if that that would have been done by subjective-oriented hockey people in the past, the objective people would have jumped all over it, and now the inverse seems to be happening”. Its like telling fans that the sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. A smart GM who wants to let everyone know how analytical he is?
Look, I wish the Leafs the best and maybe the Leafs will turn it around and win the Cup with the Blues “Berubian” like coaching change. However, it doesn’t have to be done by throwing people like Babcock under the bus and not taking accountability for a fundamental flaw in how the GM caved to player demands and cornered the team into decisions that had nothing to do with coaching.