The Maple Leafs slump has brought to slaughter our latest scapegoat. Last season it was Zach Hyman, earlier this year brought the silliness that was the “Nylander Curse” and over the last couple of weeks fans and some in the media have focused their reasons (excuses) for the Maple Leafs slump to Mike Babcock.
The main issues I have read on social media and heard on the radio is the ice given to players like Martin Marincin, the team isn’t prepared to start games, the 23 goals allowed over the course of the last four games and so on.
But issues surrounding personnel, aren’t the coaches to own. GM Kyle Dubas has had 10 months to help beef up the roster, after the summer’s bold move of acquiring John Tavares, he has been very meek in shoring up the very need that could hold his club back from playoff success this season which is defense.
Mike Babcock can only ice the players that his GM has supplied to him. Babcock has to be beyond frustrated with having to play guys like Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Igor Ozhiganov on a nightly basis knowing full well that these are the best defensemen available that aren’t injured across the organization.
It was the GM at the post trade deadline presser and not the coach that felt comfortable with the Maple Leafs depth. It is this “depth” that is being tested, as the Maple Leafs have allowed 23 goals in four games, it is this “depth” that is being tested as we continue to watch Ron Hainsey play over 20 minutes a night when he would be better suited for 10-15 minutes of ice time.
All this takes me to Matthew Barnaby’s comments this morning on the Fan590, where he stated “ Offence comes and goes throughout the season, but defense needs to happen every game”. How can Babcock fix these defensive issues when he doesn’t have the players to play the game as it should be played in a key area of the ice?
To compound the issue with the defense is a roster of forwards who are focused on offence first, and have offered little support with the defense thin due to injury. Babcock has preached over and over again about playing the right away to achieve success these missed assignments must be keeping him up at night.
The issues the Maple Leafs have aren’t system related but more to do with the roster that GM Dubas has extreme confidence in icing. Some key things to consider; A coach can’t teach hard work, they can’t teach playing physical on the puck in the defensive zone, they most certainly can’t teach Ron Hainsey and Patrick Marleau to be younger and more effective. These issues are beyond what a coach can teach, and he has over the course of the season squeezed as much as he could out of the players he has been given.
Mike Babcock is a lot of things, and yes he has his quirks but they aren’t what is stopping this team from having success. This is a man, who if his players worked as much as he did, the team wouldn’t be in the slump they find themselves in. This is also a coach who in numerous post game interview scrums has taken it on the chin for his players and management group with little support from those he protects in difficult times.
What was needed going into the season was some of that same support from GM to coach and there is a good chance there would be little panic in Leafs Nation as we head into another first round playoff match-up against the Boston Bruins.