Barn Talk: Change


Lost Leafs

To understand how the Leafs got to this point you have to go back to trade deadline last season when they acquired Jake Muzzin. The team was high-flying and on a roll when Kyle Dubas made the defensive acquisition. It signified the GM was taking measures going in the right direction. However, after suffering another first round exit, and contracts needing to be signed, more pain was yet to come to make financial room.


Off-Season

 


   The Leafs sent some grit to Colorado in the form of long-standing Leaf Nazim Kadri, with other parts, in exchange for Tyson Barrie and Kerfoot. Again, was looked at as another step in the right direction but with mixed emotions coming from the fan base.

Then the inevitable happened as everyone knew in order to sign Mitchell Marner, team papa bear Patric Marleau had to go. This was another, or what felt like, a subtraction by subtraction move in order to shore up one of their top stars.

 

Unlike Nylanders’ standstill Marner had only missed one pregame, and with that this team would have an almost complete off-season together to get their engine up and running. At this point it looked like wonder-kid Dubas had his team in place for this offensive juggernaut.

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All Systems a-Go

All but one thing. A captain. Leading up to the announcement, this was a very debated topic among the fan base and pundits alike. Rielly would have made sense but everyone knew it was a two horse race of John Tavares or Auston  Matthews. And just when it looked like it would be Matthews to don the C, Moon-gate happened. Then the logical choice of naming Jonathan Tavares team captain of the Leafs became clear, while Matthews was named an alternating-alternate captain. Time will tell if the constant professional over the face of the franchise was the right decision. 

The top 6 was now solidified along with 3 high end talents on the defensive backend and a captain. While patiently awaiting the return of Hyman and Dermott to come back from injury in November.

 

But Why?


 

Yet here we are, just past the quarter mark, outside looking in a playoff spot. This wasn’t supposed to be. This team was supposed to have the skill and talent to put fear into the opponent before the start of every game. Two new special team coaches were even brought in to correct last seasons issues.

 

So what has changed? In short, nothing. The team is still running the same style power play. The 5v5 system was still being run in the same fashion as it has been since coach Babcock took over. Freddy Andersen is still facing 35 plus shots every night. And let’s not get into the backup situation that has become a revolving door since Curtis McEhillney was allowed to walk away.

 

Whose to Blame?



  It’s easy to put this on Dubas for trading Leafs spark plug Kadri, as well as the glue of the Leafs Patric Marleau away. It’s easy to put this on Babcock as he continued to employ an archaic system that every forward-thinking coach knows how to defend.

But ultimately this still falls on the players. They are highly skilled professionals, regardless of any rift between players and coach. This group of young men have been playing hockey all their lives. The core has been together 3 plus years. They have all been part of many teams and should know by now how to create their own culture and swagger within the room. Regardless of skill, they know they have to give 110% every shift to win. There is more talent on this Leafs roster than ⅔ of the teams that play in this league.

 

Moving Forward 

 


Now with the firing of Mike Babcock the change has begun. In order for this change to take hold, the Leafs must start performing and show on a nightly basis that they are giving it their all every shift. They must show that, win or lose, they are giving 110%. 

You’ll know one of three things at that point. Either it is currently the players not playing the systems to their full potential. The GMs vision of having a top heavy skill laden team doesn’t work in this league. Or it is the coaching itself as I’m sure new head coach Sheldon Keefe will begin making adjustments after being given the keys to the Ferrari that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

   This is your wake up call Toronto. As history shows, coaches are the first to go. Followed by a few players before the GM. Hopefully this coaching change will stop the bleeding.

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