Reinvigorated Leafs eager to keep pushing forward with Keefe at helm


  • From the most dismal loss of the season in Pittsburgh, to the firing of Mike Babcock and the hiring of Sheldon Keefe, to an inspirational victory in Denver, the Maple Leafs ran the full range of emotions in the past nine days.
  • Babcock was fired last Wednesday exactly 4 1/2 years after was hired, and though the Leafs in the following days talked about taking some responsibility, it quickly became clear that a pall had been lifted in the dressing room.
  • And it’s not just because the injured Mitch Marner joined the Leafs the same day in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the club was staying at a golf resort.
  • Marner’s outgoing manner in going about his daily business brought some relief to the group, but it was obvious that Babcock had run his course and could no longer make an impact on the group.
  • The daily message from Babcock — keep grinding, steady on the rudder, the sun will come up tomorrow — increasingly became empty words for a team that had lost six in a row.
  • Not only was a new voice needed, so too was a different style of coaching.
  • At the age of 39, Keefe, we expect, will have an easier time properly relating to the players than Babcock did.
  • As the days have passed, the general feeling is emerging that Babcock didn’t have that at the top of his list of priorities.
  • Babcock long has taken a bashing on Twitter from former NHL player Mike Commodore, who has major issues with the way the coach treated him in Detroit.
  • A series of measured tweets on Saturday by former NHL defenceman Mark Fraser defended Commodore, with Fraser saying that based on his conversations and stories related to him “95%” of Babcock’s players “can’t say a good thing about” him. Fraser also tweeted that Babcock “used his power to turn teammates against each other.”

  • Here’s a tale that was related to the Toronto Sun in the past few days that is said to have occurred in the 2016-17 season, during the annual fathers trip.
  • Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic.
  • The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom.
  • Today The Athletic’s Ian Tulloch has decided to speak out on this matter after verifying the information he has obtained with multiple sources, and needless to say it is even worse than you would have originally believed if you had just read our initial report.
  • Tulloch has shown a willingness to name all of the players involved in this incident and unfortunately it paints the Babcock era in Toronto in a rather disturbing light, all the while lending credence to some of Babcock’s harshest critics.
  • Marner obliged when his coach demanded this of him and according to multiple sources the player put his name in the very last spot on the list as if to acknowledge that he could work much harder.
  • It was a show of maturity on the part of Marner but what the young Maple Leaf did not know at the time was that Babcock had planned to use that list against some of his other players.
  • Babcock then reportedly took the list and is believed to have shown it to two players in particular, Toronto Maple Leafs veterans Tyler Bozak and Toronto Maple Leafs veteran Nazem Kadri.
  • When you consider that both players are centers and could very well be the men driving the line that Marner would be on at different points in the season, this put the young rookie in a truly terrible position.
  • Unsurprisingly this left Marner devastated and to hear Tulloch describe is nothing short of heartbreaking.

According to multiple sources, Marner was in tears after the details of his list were shared, while his teammates were furious — specifically with Babcock. They couldn’t believe their head coach would put a 19-year-old in that situation, especially considering how well-liked Marner was in the dressing room.

Ian Tulloch
  • When you take this all on board it now makes sense why players like the aforementioned Mitch Marner and Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews refused to budge during contract negotiations.
  • If they were to sign long term deals with the Leafs there was the expectation that they would be playing under Mike Babcock as their head coach, and who would agree to be in that type of situation for anything less than their maximum possible value?
  • There is one more thing to note here though that now also seems considerably more disturbing.
Sources & Credits: Ian Tulloch, Toronto Sun, Hockeyfeed
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