Since arriving in Toronto as the head coach of the Maple Leafs, Mike Babcock has brought a level professionalism and structure not seen in the Maple Leafs organization in years. There is no better evidence of this then the development and growth by the likes of Nazem Kadri and Morgan Reilly.
Two players who during their tenure with the Maple Leafs have seen their fair share of failure, difficulties and could have easily fallen through the cracks as everyone and everything around them was being torn down.
What has happened since the arrival of coach Babcock, has been two players reaching career highs and now a franchise quickly turning themselves from a lottery team to one set to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
However, with all this success surrounding the Maple Leafs, queue the likes of Nick Kypreos, Aaron Ward, Chris Chelios and Mike Commodore who have dogged Mike Babcock across social media and on TV for how difficult it is to play for the coach and that Mike Babcock makes it hard for the Maple Leafs to sign free agents.
It is this point that that over the last two off-seasons especially has been proven to be unfounded. Let’s start with last summer, one of the biggest free agents available was Patrick Marleau. He a veteran of 20 years in the NHL, chose to leave the only team he had ever played for the San Jose Sharks to come to Toronto. Yes, having the roster the Maple Leafs had also helped sway the decision, but one would think if Mike Babcock was the tyrant some say he is, that Marleau would have stayed in San Jose or signed elsewhere.
Then this summer, some of these same voices said John Tavares wouldn’t sign in Toronto because of you guessed it, Mike Babcock. And we all know how that played out as on July 1st, John Tavares signed a seven-year contract to play for Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
These articles try to overshadow what has been a very positive off-season for the Maple Leafs, probably the best off-season since drafting Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Even if aspects of these opinions are true, who hasn’t had to deal with a difficult parent, coach, teacher and boss in their lifetime? I know personally, I have achieved the most success from those who have pointed out my weaknesses and who’s message and delivery if at the time came across as harsh pushed me to reach my fullest potential.
Yes, over the years some like Mike Commodore have fallen to the waste side while others like Nazem Kadri and Morgan Reilly have risen to new heights. The later is why time and time again Hockey Canada taps Babcock to coach the men’s national team and why Brendan Shanahan hired Babcock to turn the Maple Leafs program around in the first place.
There are things that some fans and the media could criticize Mike Babcock on, as some have critiqued how he deploys certain players and that is fair and everyone will have their own vision for the roster. But what can’t be denied is the positive influence Mike Babcock has had on the turn around the Maple Leafs franchise and the influence he has had positively in players deciding to come to Toronto as in the case with Patrick Marleau and John Tavares.
So no matter what a vocal minority in the media want us to believe, Mike Babcock is a major contributor to the Maple Leafs success on the ice and from a recruitment perspective. These factors are why the Maple Leafs have the realistic prospects of ending the drought and winning Toronto’s first Stanley Cup since 1967.
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