I have always been in coach Babcock’s corner since arriving in Toronto and have supported how he deploys the roster on most nights even if it has been unpopular with the readers of this blog. However, I have started to wonder what is Babcock’s effect on this year’s roster and is it coming to the detriment to players at his disposal.
When one looks at the roster’s top end talent one thing stands out immediately with the likes of Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Reilly, Gardiner and once signed Nylander is that this team is made to play a more possession style system.
So why has Babcock deployed a dump and chase system? I don’t get the stubbornness from a veteran coach who can’t realize the strengths of the team he is being asked to coach. It literally feels like Babcock is forcing a square peg into a round hole on most nights. I am sure it is causing himself, fellow coaches and more importantly the players so much unneeded frustration.
The last game alone saw the Maple Leafs commit 11 icing infractions in the second and third periods combined. With every icing call and lack of offensive pressure has left the Maple Leafs chasing games instead of their opponents chasing them. This style of play also puts unneeded pressure on a defense that is still a work on progress, which then leaves the goaltenders being peppered by 30+ shots a game.
Opposition teams have started to clog up the neutral zone thus forcing the Maple Leafs to make breakout passes to nowhere and to no one. So wouldn’t the Maple Leafs be in a better position for success, if Babcock loosened the ropes a bit and let his players just play?
Everyone that has watched this team knows that Matthews, Reilly, Marner, Gardiner can carry the puck and get the cycle going. How many teams can go toe to toe against the Maple Leafs if Babcock just let the players use their speed and creativity?
I will admit that the defensive side needs to be improved, but if the Maple Leafs deployed a more possession based system, it improves the defensive side of the game instantly. The other team can’t score if they don’t have the puck and more importantly the much-maligned defensive corps and the goaltenders won’t be pushed to their limits every game like they currently have been.
In closing, The 10-5 start and the explosive first 5-6 games bought the team and coaching staff a lot of goodwill to start the season so some won’t question the early results. But if the loses begin to pile up, and if the offense doesn’t get going in the first two periods as we have seen as of late, you better believe the spotlight will be placed on the systems and the coaches. Because the blame won’t be on the current management group who has assembled the best Maple Leafs roster since maybe 1967, it won’t be one the players who are being asked to play against their strengths, it will rest squarely on Babcock and his staff who have refused to evolve with the players they coach.