What’s changed in the year since Babcock’s been fired?

It’s the first year anniversary of the Mike Babcock firing. It’s a special day, and we owe much thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury for it, but also Mike Babcock for being such an uncompromising prick that he refused to change even when all signs pointed to him failing in his role.
Not coincidentally this also marks the one year anniversary since Sheldon Keefe took over the Leafs, and I decided to have the TLN writers weigh in on what has changed the most in the past twelve months for the Leafs.
Mark Norman
The Leafs played 47 games under Keefe this season. Comparing Keefe’s first 47 games to Babcock’s last 47 games shows us that Keefe’s teams slightly outshot (+0.7 SF%) and out-attempted (+0.9 FF%) Babcock’s teams, while Keefe received better 5v5 shooting (8.9% to Babcock’s 8.0%) and basically the same 5v5 goaltending (0.913 vs Babcock’s 0.914). Where things greatly diverged is in expected goals (a shot quality metric): the Keefe-coached Leafs had 53.6% of the expected share of goals while Babcock’s Leafs had 49.8% of that share. The eye test bears this out: under Keefe the Leafs were encouraged to be creative with the puck (within reason) rather than playing scared of …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs winning pace, playoff chances, and why winning out West would be wonderful

Earlier this year Mike Babcock took heat for saying the Leafs should pick up six points in every five games, and that was his measure for success. He took a lot of heat for it, especially considering at the time, the Leafs were in consideration for possibly winning the division, Presidents trophy, and I’m sure if I put in a few minutes of research, I could find a few hockey men who had predicted the Leafs to win the cup. The six points in five games would put the Leafs on pace for a 98 point season, but just how are they doing in comparison to that target now?

Well, we can see where Mike Babcock didn’t do so hot, and bottoming out at zero points in five games really shows that by his own metric, he had to go. As for Keefe, well, his late November through early January heater is what has given him a significantly higher number, but since January 12 he hasn’t had a whole lot of success of staying above the six point benchmark either. Starting goaltender injuries, as well as injuries to three defensemen will do that to you, not …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs Post-Game #25: 5 Takeaways from Something Special

Say what you will about Mike Babcock the person — and a lot of people have done exactly that following his dismissal on Wednesday — but the past two games have revealed in unflinching detail just how much the ex-coach was holding this Maple Leafs team back.
My goodness, folks. How did we let this go on for so long?
The schedule is now into late-November, and the Leafs currently sit outside of a playoff spot, coming fresh off a coaching change over 20 games into their season. Typically, that’s when the practice fights begin to go down — a necessity if this team is actually prepared to follow the 2018-19 Blues blueprint (Bluesprint? I dunno, something to think about) most expect them to.
And yet, this team looks positively giddy.
Jason Spezza straight-up broke out into uproarious laughter on the bench during Thursday night’s slump-busting victory. Auston Matthews got as hyped for Tyson Barrie’s first goal of the season as Bill Murray did for Michael Jordan’s dunk that saved the entire earth in Space Jam. John Tavares declared a midseason road win in freakin’ Arizona as the start of “something special” before dropping F-bombs like a guy who just …

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Author: Mike Stephens / The Leafs Nation

What Sheldon Keefe Can Bring as Maple Leafs Head Coach

Mike Babcock is out. Sheldon Keefe is in. Things move fast in this wacky world we call hockey. Try to keep up.

The Keefes Nation aha
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) November 21, 2019

The aftermath of Babcock’s dismissal will be filled mostly with eulogies, the majority of which seek to tie a neat little bow around his tenure in Toronto. And that’s entirely warranted. Babcock led the Leafs out of what was perhaps the most cavernous hole in franchise history upon taking over in 2015 and turned them into a perennial 100-point outfit. That can never be taken away from him.
But times change. And when Babcock didn’t, the other shoe was bound to drop.
Sheldon Keefe is the man of the hour now. And after biding his time in the Leafs organization for nearly the past half-decade, the former Marlies bench boss holds the opportunity to put his definitive stamp on an NHL roster.
Which begs the question: What does that look like?
In covering the Marlies for the past three years, I’ve been able to observe a number of Keefe’s coaching habits applied within a system largely reflective of the level above. Here are a few …

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Author: Mike Stephens / The Leafs Nation

The coaching change can’t be the only thing on Dubas’ to do list

The Leafs took a big step by letting go of Mike Babcock on Wednesday. As far as moves that could be made that would have the greatest impact on the Leafs players and this season that was it, and frankly it’s foolish to think otherwise.
The coach controls the locker room, the strategy, the systems, and the lineup card, and a case can be made for each of those things being broken with the Leafs.
It is not a 100% guarantee that Sheldon Keefe can fix everything, in fact, it’s probably a guarantee that somethings he’ll do will leave us wanting as well, but there is some hope that the Leafs will get back on track, and at least make a show of competing for a playoff spot.
The Leafs need to get 64.4% of the available points in the remaining 59 games to finish with 98 points, what would have been good enough for the last Eastern Conference Wildcard spot last season, that’s a pace ahead of their best Original Six league results. Of course that’s more manageable when you figure one hot streak and sustained 60% results is a doable, as is the very real possibility of the …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The End of the Road?

It seems like the end is nigh for Mike Babcock and the Leafs, and we are past the point of no return on his time as the Leafs coach. Whether you agree with that being the right decision or not, the fact that the fans, the team, the league, the media, etc. are collectively holding their breath for the inevitable announcement likely means that a couple of wins won’t really change a whole lot, and frankly at best close off the concerns about the immediate losing streak, not the overall underwhelming start to the season, and certainly not the past playoff failures.
The Leafs have checked a couple of critical boxes on whether or not we would see Babcock departing.
There’s been the closed door, players only meeting that has never been a good sign when it comes to a coach’s employment status. And while players will assert that these meetings do happen with frequency throughout the year, they certainly have a way of popping up with losing streaks and concerns over coaches.
There’s been a handful of articles, insider radio hits discussing the potential that Mike Babcock has lost the room and players don’t …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News and Notes: Mike Babcock’s dismissal doesn’t appear to be imminent

It’s all about Mike Babcock right now. With the Maple Leafs massively underachieving, the head coach is on the hot seat and fans are wondering when the plug is finally going to be pulled.

It’s no secret that Kyle Dubas and Babcock don’t see eye to eye. Dubas is a young, new-school type who wants to push the team into the future, opting for speed and skill over grit and physicality. Babcock is an old-school type, who believes in playing defence first and the importance of an all-around game. Dubas assembled a roster that suits his vision, while Babcock is trying to contort it to match his own vision.
Right in the middle of all of this is Brendan Shanahan, the guy who ultimately makes the decision as to whether Babcock gets canned and the Leafs move in a different direction. As Ryan Fancey wrote the other day, only Shanahan can pull the plug on Babcock.
While Shanahan surely believes in what Dubas is doing and that he’s ahead of the curb as to where the league is headed, he also certainly has respect for the man who coached him while with the Detroit Red Wings …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

Doerrie: Ben Harpur and Jason Spezza Show Mike Babcock Still Hasn’t Changed

It’s become a one-liner; “Mike Babcock needs his toys taken away.”
This summer, most of Leafs Nation began to think that, with Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey gone, there would be no more “toys” left for Babcock to play with. “Toy”, in this case, is used to describe a certain player who either: a) shouldn’t be playing at all based on available talent or, b) playing someone way too high in the lineup.
Hainsey and Zaitsev fell into Category B, while Ben Harpur is very much in Category A. Hyman is another “Babcock toy” who many would argue fits into Category B, but at least he contributes effectively to one of the NHL’s most potent lines. Harpur, other than being 6’7, doesn’t contribute to the outcome of the game in any tangible way in my eyes, at least in a positive sene. But do not be even remotely surprised if Babcock plays him over Marincin, or even Sandin.
A very large portion of the fanbase — and likely the front office, mind you — believes Babcock needs to change his line of thinking for the Leafs to be successful. I’m here to tell you that, unfortunately, he probably …

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Author: Rachel Doerrie / The Leafs Nation

It’s time to talk about Mike Babcock

Is it too early to talk about firing Mike Babcock? I think for a lot of you frustrated by game seven and new to questioning the coaching of Mike Babcock, you might want to unpack things a bit more before you decide where you truly stand. For the Babcock true believers, well, this post probably isn’t for you at all, but the bone I will repeatedly throw you is that Mike Babcock is a good coach, Mike Babcock has been an important part of turning the Leafs around, and if we were assessing Mike Babcock on whether he’s done anything that is would make this a for cause firing, we wouldn’t be able to find it. What I am saying is that Mike Babcock is not the coach that moves the Leafs forward.

I feel it’s important for me to establish I’m not kicking dirt because the Leafs lost Game 7. In fact, the Bruins are a very good team, and right up until Game 7 it was one of the most enjoyable series of hockey I’ve watched in a long time.  What I am saying is that the onus was on Mike Babcock to prove …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation