Barn Talk :
With Coach Mac
Monthly State of the Leafs
Identity – it’s something we all possess. We may choose to express it, we may choose to hide it, or we may simply try to understand it. Ultimately, these choices contribute to who we become. The same can be argued for professional hockey teams.
When rosters are constructed, they are typically based off of the GMs and coaches vision, and depending on their relationship, the two visions don’t always coincide. A coach, however, is still obligated to find and/or define the teams identity through their playing system and by helping to build a winning culture around the team they’re working with.
As a coach, it is very important that you recognize the strengths within your roster which changes annually and sometimes throughout the course of the season. Take what is given, or T.W.I.G., is a philosophy that is part of most coaches toolbox’s; typically reserved for gameplay when coaching players to not force plays on the ice. In this case for the Leafs, meaning, in-spite of the coaches “wish list” for certain roster players, they have to figure out the identity of their current team and adapt to their roster. It’s certainly not an area where ego or a person stuck in their ways (because it’s worked in the past), belongs. This could very well hold a teams potential back.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently experiencing an identity issue despite their plethora of talent. There appears to be a lack of cohesiveness at all levels, which is imperative when defining a teams identity. From Kyle Dubas attempting to successfully implement a vision that so far, has only found success at the AHL level to Mike Babcock trying to coach a 2019 roster to success as he did way back in 2008. The team is playing new millennial hockey within a system that’s over a decade old while at the same time, plugging AHL players into an injured and cap constrained roster. Combined, the former is hindering this very talented Leafs team who are still trying to find their identity.
Finding Their Identity
The entire league knows what to expect when playing the Boston Bruins because Boston knows exactly who they are, a rough team that plays quick and simple hockey and they bring their identity to the arena, game in and game out. The Buffalo Sabres are now realizing they are a fast and gritty team as well and mainly because their coach has identified the strengths of his personnel and adapted his system and culture to those areas. Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs are collectively still trying to find themselves, underperforming, while their skill/talent has kept them afloat through the first month of the season.
The Leafs will find their identity. They have all the makings of a smart, fast, relentless hockey team, with the ability and skill to attack opponents wave after wave, line after line. It should start to happen when all hands are on deck and back from injury. Babcock should know exactly what he has at that point and will hopefully be able to put ego and wish list aside and adapt to the roster that’s in front of him. Ultimately, this will fall on Dubas’s shoulders, as he attempts to put together all the pieces necessary to achieve Stanley Cup success.