Well this is certainly a disturbing read, and what makes it all the more disturbing is there are now multiple journalist who are confirming the veracity of this story.
A recent article from Toronto Maple Leafs beat reporter Terry Koshan has gone into some detail regarding how things went so wrong between the Toronto Maple Leafs and former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. Unfortunately for Babcock and his supporters it paints the former Leafs' bench boss in an extremely negative light and furthermore makes him look like a coach who mistreated some of the organizations biggest stars. Now you could call this a rumor as Koshan is relaying second hand information, but I think you will see a little later in this article why we may in fact have moved beyond this being merely a rumor.
First, here's what Koshan wrote in his recent article for the Toronto Sun:
One tale was related to us in the past few days that is said to have occurred in the 2016-17 season, during the annual fathers trip.
Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic. The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom.
Even under the best of circumstances that story would paint Babcock in a very dark light and arguably portrays him as a cruel manipulator, but things get even worse from there. We do not merely have Koshan's sources to go with here as Ian Tulloch of The Athletic has now verified the legitimacy of this report and has provided even more detail. According to Tulloch the rookie player involved in this incincident was none other than Maple Leafs star forward Mitch Marner, a player that would go on to be of vital importance to the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization.
Here's what Tulloch had to say:
I heard about this Babcock story when it happened, but I didn’t want to bring it up until I could confirm it was true.
The rookie he did this to was Mitch Marner.
You can imagine how alienated Marner must have felt in the Maple Leafs locker room after word of this incident got out and you have to wonder how it may have impacted Marner's relationship with the organization as a whole. Marner of course famously went through a very difficult contract negotiation with Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas during the offseason and you have to wonder if knowing he would potentially be signing to play under Babcock for the long term may not have played a role in his extended holdout. That is of course only speculation on my part but, given the story that has just been relayed to us by two veteran reporters from Toronto, it is not difficult to imagine why Marner would hesitate to sign for anything less than maximum value given his alleged history with the head coach.