In a move that wasn’t a surprise, the Maple Leafs fired coach Mike Babcock earlier this afternoon. The 56-year old veteran bench boss was brought in from Detroit in 2015 where he took over the Leafs. He got an eight-year contract worth $50 million to become the highest paid coach in NHL history. He earned $6.25 million per season.
Even though he guided Toronto back to the postseason the past three years, they suffered disappointing first round eliminations each Spring. That included the past two to bitter rival Boston. Both series went seven games before the Leafs wilted. They blew a three games to two lead in the most recent playoff meeting.
Having made a trade with Colorado to address the blueline by acquiring Tyson Barrie and forward Alex Kerfoot in exchange for Nazem Kadri, it was supposed to improve the Maple Leafs. Instead, their defense remains a mess giving up way too many scoring chances and goals against for starter Frederik Andersen. They rank 24th in goals allowed per game, giving up 3.44. They’re tied with the almost as disappointing Lightning for seventh worst.
Outside of Andersen, who’s accounted for all nine of their wins while posting a 2.76 GAA and .912 save percentage over 17 starts, Toronto’s other goalies are a combined 0-5-1 with a 4.69 GAA and .873 save percentage. Michael Hutchinson is basically the backup. He’s 0-4-1 in six appearances with a 4.44 GAA and .879 save percentage. In one start, Kasimir Kaskisuo allowed six goals on 38 shots.
Aside from the lack of a dependable backup that can give Andersen a night off, the Leafs are winless in their last six (0-5-1) having been outscored 26-15. The only point was a 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers on 11/9. They stopped a 4-2 decision last night at Vegas, which proved to be the end of the line for Babcock.
He finished his Leafs career with a 173-133-45 record. Throughout a respectable 17-year coaching career spent with the Mighty Ducks, Red Wings and Maple Leafs, Babcock is 700-418-19-164 in 1301 games. That includes ties (19) and overtime losses (164).
Sheldon Keefe takes over. Toronto is currently 9-10-4 for 22 points. They are out of playoff position. They are still missing Mitch Marner, who will likely be out at least until the end of November. Kerfoot is also out due to dental surgery.
Still, there’s enough talent for Toronto to perform better. It was time. Every coach has an expiration date. Babcock’s ran out.