Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Mike Babcock will return behind the bench

Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas has given Mike Babcock and the fan base the answer we’ve been waiting for. Mike Babcock will remain behind the Toronto Maple Leafs bench for the start of the 2019-20 season.

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“We’re all in on Mike and Mike is all in on us. We’ve had productive management meetings as an organization and Mike and I have had some really good meetings as well since the season ended. It’s our very strong belief Mike is the one to lead us, that’s the reality of it.”

-Kyle Dubas

The relationship between the Leafs head coach and general manager have been often questioned as it seems they don’t see eye to eye. Kyle Dubas however, clearly thinks that a coach with Mike Babcock‘s resume doesn’t always fall into your lap and the Leafs are a better team with Mike Babcock behind the bench than not.

Getting over the hump

Mike Babcock took over as the Leafs head coach in 2015 and coached them to a productive last-place finish. That sounds weird to say, however, watching the games became fun again. Myself as a fan of the Leafs was able to see that they were playing within a system that could succeed.

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This last place finish was followed by 3 straight playoff appearances. One against the presidents’ trophy winning Washington Capitals and two against the Boston Bruins. As Chris Johnston put it recently on the Steve Dangle Podcast “We’re kind of like the starving man complaining about the food we’re given.”

The Leafs fanbase was so starved for playoff hockey and we’re finally getting it, but that’s just not enough. We want to win, we deserve to win.

Can Babcock get us there?

In my honest opinion no. I think Babcock is too stubborn and stuck in his ways to win a Stanley Cup in today’s NHL. Auston Matthews the Leafs franchise centre and arguably the best shooter the Leafs have on their roster played under 19:00 minutes in a do or die game seven. It is a lazy argument but it’s one that just shouldn’t even be relevant. When you have 2 of the top 10 centres in the NHL (Auston Matthews and John Tavares) there’s no reason that in a do or die game you’re not riding them into the ground.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Packing For The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs, and many think they have no chance. But, that’s not the case.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will always be linked to the Boston Bruins for the infamous game 7 3rd period collapse that cost the Leafs the series that year. But fortunately for the Maple Leafs and their fans, it’s not 2013 anymore and only 2 players from that year remain on the Leafs roster today. Then again, last season, the Bruins took the Leafs down in seven games. But, this year, the Leafs are looking for some revenge.

If we look at regular season stats, the Leafs scored 27 more goals than the Bruins did during the regular season. However, the Bruins allowed 36 fewer goals against then the Leafs. 

Home Ice

The Bruins secured home ice again in this years opening round finishing the year with a 49-24-9 record good for 107 points (which places them 3rd in the entire NHL). Many will look at this as potentially detrimental to the Leafs success in the first round, but you shouldn’t count your chicklets before they hit the ice. The Leafs have been equally good on the road as they are on home ice (winning 23 games at home and away from home). I feel this will likely play into the Leafs favour because it will save Mike Babcock from himself and prevent an extensive matching game.

Line for line

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The Bruins have arguably the best top line in all of hockey with David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. This line will likely play head to head with the Leafs top line of Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. With the explosiveness of the Bruins top line, they easily have the edge over the Leafs top line.

The Leafs likely get the edge with their second line of Andreas Johnsson/Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander and Auston Matthews going up against likely David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Marcus Johansson. You have to think that the Leafs get the edge there.

X factor

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The Leafs third line will almost certainly be the X-factor in the series. The third line and more specifically Nazem Kadri will have to be the difference in the series. Kadri was suspended for 3 games in the series last year and perhaps if he didn’t miss time, the outcome of the series might have ended up a bit differently.

The way the Leafs are going to win this series is to beat the Bruins playing the Leafs style. They have to go fast and commit to being the faster team. The Bruins are going to try to hit the Leafs every chance they get because that’s the way the Bruins play. But, the Leafs have speed to burn on all 4 lines and need to use that to their advantage if they are going to be successful.

stats from NHL.com, hockeydb.com and hockey-reference.com

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Mike Babcock On The Hot Seat?

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock might be coaching for his job in the upcoming playoffs. It seems as though he and Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas do not see eye to eye.

Mike Babcock

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Mike Babcock is arguably the best coach in the National Hockey League. However, that doesn’t always mean your job is safe, especially not when you’re the Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since 2007, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had five head coaches including Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle, Peter Horachek and Babcock. It’s safe to say, the window to prove yourself in Toronto is a small one.

Babcock has been coaching in the NHL since the 2002-2003 season, when he was the head coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. After his short stint in Anaheim, he moved to the Detriot Red Wings for the 2005-2006 season.

His time with the Red Wings is where his pedigree comes from. Babcock was the head coach of some of the best teams in hockey history. In 2007-2008, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup (Babcock’s only Stanley Cup), this Red Wings team consisted of players such as Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek, Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. When your team has a bunch of players who are either in the Hall of Fame or on their way to the Hall of Fame, there is very good chance of winning the cup.

Mike Babcock in Toronto

On May 20, 2015, Mike Babcock became the highest paid coach in NHL history. He signed an 8 year, $50 million USD contract to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In his first season in Toronto, he coached the Leafs to a last place finish. But, Babcock isn’t a fault for that poor display in his first season. The Maple Leafs were awful during the 2015-2016 season. The Leafs highest scoring player that year was Nazem Kadri with 45 points in 76 games. The next highest scoring was noted Leafs legend P.A Parenteau with 41 in 77 games. Babcock’s first season with the Leafs was the first time he’d missed the playoffs since his last season with Anaheim.

Mike Babcock and Kyle Dubas’ relationship

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There has been a lot of speculation the Leafs head coach and general manager don’t see eye to eye, even though Babcock is on record saying him and Kyle Dubas have a good relationship. I personally find it hard to believe that they aren’t arguing.

The proof is right in front of us game in and game out. Babcock doesn’t deploy the team the way that Dubas had hoped that he would.

If you look back at the Montréal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs game on February 23rd, Babcock wasn’t giving his stars enough ice time. The team was completely healthy and yet  Auston Matthews only played 16:28, Travis Dermott played 12:50 and Jake Muzzin played 18:43. Whereas, Ron Hainsey played 21:17 and Nikita Zaitsev played 20:35. That’s unacceptable. Hainsey and Zaitsev have proven to be ineffective at times for the Maple Leafs, so why would you give them more ice time than two dependable defensemen.

Is Babcock on the Hot Seat?

I tend to believe he is, but with conditions. If the Leafs go into the playoffs this year and get embarrassed by the Boston Bruins in 4 or 5 games, then I believe Babcock will be looking for a new Job this summer. If the Leafs play a good series regardless if they win or lose, I think Babcock will be given another shot. The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to “start on time” since Babcock has been the head coach. Eventually that has to come back to him as he is the common denominator year to year.

Potential Replacements

There are several coaches that are looking for work currently, whether it be Joel Quenneville, Alain Vigneault or the Toronto Marlies own Sheldon Keefe all would likely fill Babcock’s spot behind the bench admirably.

If I were Dubas, I’d promote Keefe. Keefe has a lot of familiarity with several Leafs (Dermott, Garret Sparks, Martin Marincin, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Justin Holl, Frederik Gauthier) as he once coached them with the Marlies. Plus, Keefe and Dubas have a long history together. Dubas hired Keefe years ago to coach the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Once Dubas came to Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, he brought Keefe on board to coach the Marlies. So, the writing is on the wall. 

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Team Toughness

The current narrative that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to lose in the first round at the hands of the

Boston Bruins because “they aren’t tough enough” is wrong.

Firstly let me start off by saying I agree the Toronto Maple Leafs have a tendency to allow teams to push them around however, the fact that general manager Kyle Dubas added no size or toughness at the deadline this season does not mean the Leafs will get run out of town by the Boston Bruins. The Leafs need team toughness not a 6’5″ player who can’t keep up with the rest of the roster. The concept of team toughness comes from within. As cliche as it sounds, the Leafs have players with some “bite” to their game. Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, and Andreas Johnsson all play with a certain “tough guy” attitude and the rest of the team (with the exception of the obvious Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Auston Matthews) need to adopt. This doesn’t mean that the entire Leafs roster needs to be prepared to fight anyone on the Bruins roster. It means when the whistle blows and Brad Marchand inevitably takes that one extra poke at Fredrick Andersen grab him, let him know he’s not getting free whacks at the goalie. Essentially the Leafs are more than capable of holding their own against the Boston Bruins they just have to “grow a pair”.

Last Year’s playoffs

Yes, the Leafs lost to the Bruins again. It was a 7 game series the Toronto Maple Leafs could have won the series as well. The Toronto Maple Leafs lost this series in 7 games and in three of the 4 losses they allowed 5 or more goals against, that just doesn’t translate to winning against any team.  .

Round 2

The Boston Bruins got dismantled by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 games. The Tampa bay Lightning were able to flex their muscles because they stuck to what made them so successful. They out-skated the Bruins which is exactly what the Leafs should have done.  The Lightning are a more complete version of the Leafs. There is no reason the Leafs can’t compete with the Bruins in a seven game series.

Conclusion

The Leafs do not need to get bigger, that is an old narrative. They need to get tougher, but that doesn’t come from outside of the organization. If the biggest teams always won the Stanley cup John Scott would still be playing hockey in the NHL. Can we all as fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs give up on the “too small to win” narrative just because they lost last season? If you make the playoffs, you have a legitimate chance to win. Leave it at that.

stats from NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: What Is Mitch Marner’s Contract Value?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have some serious contract negotiations coming their way this summer. The hardest one could be Mitch Marner.

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Mitch Marner has been nothing short of spectacular since he cracked the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. That could prove to be costly though.

Since joining the NHL, Mitchell Marner has scored 185 points in 201 games played (averaging .92 points per game). This season though has been his best to date scoring 55 points in just 42 games. Marner has been driving his line, which has regularly been John Tavares, Zach Hyman and himself. Marner is averaging 19:38 time on ice with a 104.5 PDO (sum of a team’s shooting percentage and its save percentage). This means when he is on the ice the puck goes in the opponents net significantly more than his own. Marner also has 51 CF% (corsi for percentage) which seems low, but does tell us his team posses the puck the majority of the time he is on the ice. 

Cost Breakdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs are getting their monies worth from Mitch Marner this year. Currently, he ranks 9th in league scoring and 3rd in cost per point. The Toronto Maple Leafs are paying just $16,258 per point from Mitch Marner this season. That’s only behind Mikko Rantanen and Brayden Point. It is worth noting that all 3 players are on their final year of a 3 year entry level deal. Looking at the players ahead of Marner in scoring this season 6 of them are on standard NHL contracts (Point and Rantanen being the exceptions) the average cost per point in $124,354. Assuming that Marner is on pace for 110 points this season at $124,354 per point, then the Leafs would be paying Marner $13,678,940. But, that won’t happen.

Likely Scenario

Mitch Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris (same agent that represents Taylor Hall, Nolan Patrick and Shea Weber) said they will not negotiate a contract in season. This isn’t surprising since his client is putting up career numbers.

In addition, they likely want to see what Auston Matthews signs for. As they know that Marner will have to slot in somewhere under him. Marner will likely earn more than what his teammate, William Nylander signed for (6.9 million), but he’ll more than likely earn less than Matthews.

Current Salary Cap

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a safe spot with their cap situation with just over $4.7 million in space free.

Next season, they have Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, Martin Marincin, Par Lindholm and Micheal Hutchinson coming off of the books. All-in-all, assuming none of those players are re-signed that will free another $8.5 million (roughly). This now means that the Leafs have about $13.2 million in cap relief after their unrestricted free agents.

In addition, the Toronto Maple Leafs also have a few restricted free agents to sign in the off-season. The aforementioned Marner and Matthews as well as Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Igor Ozhiganov and Garret Sparks. All of which would require a pay raise. Of that $13.2 million, the rest of the RFAs (excluding Matthews and Marner) would account for roughly $8 million of that (Kapanen at 4, Johnsson at 2, Ozhiganov and Sparks both at 1 million).

Where does the extra money come from?

The salary cap is going up from $79.5 million to $83 million next season as per Gary Bettman that allows for $3.5 million not already calculated.

Additionally, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a couple of contracts that are movable assets. If need be, the Maple Leafs could look to trade Connor Brown and/or Zach Hyman to free up some cap space.  Brown makes $2.1 million for 1 more year and Hyman makes $2.25 for 2 more. Both, Hyman and Brown are quality NHL players and do help the Toronto Maple Leafs win games even though neither contribute a whole lot offensively. The unfortunate reality is the Leafs have a lot of top end talent and when you pay the top end talent, it sometimes means that you to trade useful assets. 

Assuming that Brown and Hyman are dealt, Kyle Dubas, the general manager of Toronto Maple Leafs will have to continue to find players like Tyler Ennis on bargain deals who can fill the void left by Brown and Hyman.

Conclusion

If I had to guess, Marner will be asking for $10 million. He wont get $10 million, but I expect his average annual value to be close to $9 million.

If Marner signs for anything less than $8.5, Kyle Dubas deserves a raise.

Salary cap research – CapFriendly.com

Stats – Hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler