Was it because of the money? Yes. Was it because of market? Yes. Was it because the Leafs haven’t won in 48 years? Yes. Was it because he’ll have more player personal control there than anywhere else? Yes. Was it because they haven’t won a Cup in 48 years? Yes. Was it because it’s an enormous challenge? Yes.
What the hell though, I said yes to every single question. Which one is it? It’s all of them and they all lead to one thing….ego.
Mike Babcock took the Leafs job because of all the jobs he could have, this one has the ability to feed his ego more than any other. And that’s not at all a criticism of Babcock. I don’t know the man, but he comes across as a very decent and respectful guy. He also has more self belief than anyone else in the coaching fraternity…which is a nice way of saying he has a massive ego.
You can’t succeed at anything in life without a big ego. I’m not an egotistical guy at all. But when I start talking sports, I become a bit of an ass because I believe I know more than 99% of the sports media, let alone the public. And I believe most other people working in the sports media or trying to like myself think the same way. You have to have that.
So Babcock goes to Toronto with the belief that he can take them from nothing to the promise land. And he believes he should be making double what the 2nd highest paid coach in the league Joel Quennville makes. And he believes he deserves the media attention he’s about to get. And he believes he can build a better team than the other GM’s in the league. And believes that he can take the Leafs from the outhouse to the penthouse. It’s that belief, that ego, that’s made him the man he is.
Now the big question becomes where the Leafs go from here?
They aren’t in as bad of shape as a lot of people make them out to be, but it isn’t pretty. I am interested to find out what they are doing on the GM front. Shanahan isn’t your normal team President, he’ll have a big role. Perhaps Mark Hunter will be given the title, or Babcock himself. I can’t see them hiring Babcock only to then go hire a GM, but I guess it is possible. No doubt though that Babcock will have another title that gives him major power in the organization.
The system isn’t good. I’m not a big Willie Nylander fan, but the talent is definitely there. The one thing to watch for now is a hard push to flip picks with the Coyotes to pick 3rd and guarantee themselves Dylan Strome. The reason being that Babcock was adamant about having that big, young center to build around in his presser after the Wings got bounced by the Lightning.
But perhaps they won’t be that high on Strome. His skating is questionable and he had a horrific playoffs (although he definitely appeared to be injured in the OHL final). I’ve thought about this for a week or so, maybe they trade back? If you’re a Leafs fan would you trade back with say the Avs for the 10th pick, a 2 this year, and their 1st next season? At 10 you might get Matt Barzal who some might rank higher than Strome. Then perhaps you use that 2 or their own to package with 24 to move up and take a D like Thomas Chabot or Jeremy Roy? Just a thought on my part though.
I would be shocked if Phil Kessel is still around in September. I think they can get something for him, and he doesn’t seem like a Babcock guy…nor does Babcock seem like a Kessel guy! But I think Phaneuf will stay now. Babcock knows how vital it is to have veteran D on a team and while Phaneuf isn’t a number 1 guy he is a top pairing guy who you can lean on for big minutes.
But it depends on what direction they go. Babcock did sign an 8 year deal, so he has the job security to take a season or two to tear things down and do a serious rebuild.
It is going to be extremely interesting to watch unfold. I am excited for Leaf fans, and also nervous. Why did Ken Holland basically allow Babcock to walk out the door? Did he perhaps come mainly for the money? I’ve thought the Leafs had the answer a few times before only for it to go horribly wrong. A lot of people are going to be sick of the attention the Leafs are going to get this offseason with Babcock now on board, but that’s good. Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny that the league is better when Toronto is relevant and they just got a whole lot more relevant!
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