The toronto Maple Leafs have struggle with just 2 regulation wins over their last 15 games and many have been speculating on the future of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock as a result of those struggles. The rumors surrounding Babcock's potential firing have been around for some time now but they reached a fever pitch on Saturday night when two National Hockey League insiders revealed that they now believe a firing could be imminent.
During their weekly headlines segment both Sportsnet National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman and fellow Sportsnet NHL insider Chris Johnston expressed serious concerns about the future of the Maple Leafs head coach with the organization. Specifically it appears as though the loss to long time rivals the Boston Bruins on Friday night combined with what turned out to be a very ugly against a depleted Pittsburgh Penguins squad on Saturday night. The argument could be made that the Maple Leafs were playing a back to back, but so were the Penguins who did not have captain Sidney Crosby in the line up and in spite of that it was still something of a blowout with the Penguins winning 6 - 1. During the game Friedman hinted at the possibility that Babcock might not even make it back on the team plane after the game.
"I mean look if they do not make a miraculous comeback in the third period, they are supposed to fly to Vegas tonight, all bets are off anything could happen here I think," said Friedman during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada.
According to Johnston it is not just about the fact that the Leafs have been struggling to secure wins this season, but also how the team has been losing that has raised serious concerns within the organization.
"They are really worried about the process I think more than just the losses," said Johnston. "When you see how many times they have gone down early in games this season and the way things have gone, I mean everything has to be considered. There is a lot riding on this season for the entire Leafs organization."
Although Friedman believes that the Maple Leafs did not want to put an end to Babcock's tenure as the head coach of their organization he now feels as though the current situation may have altered the thinking of the Leafs organization in that regard.
"The one thing I would say is that up until recently I think they really didn't want to do it," said Friedman. "I think they wanted to send a message that they were backing the coach and the group especially since a bunch of guys were hurt and out, but now I think this season could slide and I think all options could be on the table."
They were strong comments to be sure but it seems that not everyone is an agreement regarding the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs' bench boss. On Sunday in a piece for The Athletic, Maple Leafs insider James Mirtle touched on the possibility of Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe taking over the role of head coach if Babcock was fired. Not only does Mirtle have his doubts about tossing Keefe into a firestorm in the middle of a regular season campaign, but he also expressed doubts that the firing of Babcock was on the horizon.
Is Keefe being set up to succeed if he is promoted to his first NHL job midseason in hockey’s biggest market with a team in almost complete disarray?
This decision is not as black and white as some want to make it. And I do not believe a decision on Babcock’s future is imminent.
Depending on who you believe the end of Mike Babcock as a head coach in Toronto may not be as sure of a thing as it seems. Tack on a few more bad losses on this extended road trip for the Leafs however and Maple Leafs general manager Kyle dubas may simply not have a choice in the matter.