The Toronto Maple Leafs have six months until the 2019-20 season begins. A lot of time for significant changes and a lot of time for questions from fans and pundits.
One of them: will it be the end of the partnership between GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock?
Babcock has now reached the halfway mark of the record eight-year, $50-million deal, with two consecutive 100-point seasons, three playoff appearances, but no wins yet.
During his Game 7 loss postgame press conference, Babcock appeared to evaluate everyone’s performance except for his. Fans have criticized him since the last buzzer, especially since Auston Matthews and Jonathan Tavares finish the game with 18:48 and 21:19 of ice time respectively.
“With all of that being said, I can understand fans’ frustration when the highest paid coach in the league couldn’t find a way to get Matthews more than 18:48 of ice time in a Game 7 when his team was trailing for the entire game,” writes Ian Tulloch of The Athletic in his Game 7 report cards.
After the Leafs pulled their goaltender with more than three minutes to play, Babcock put out Patrick Marleau, who did nothing in the series for the Leafs. A few seconds after that, the Bruins scored into an empty net.
It did not take long for pundits and insiders to wonder if this was it for Babcock in Toronto, despite his hefty contract and reputation as a head coach.
However, since Joel Quenneville was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season, it seems like nothing is now impossible in the NHL.
As mentioned above by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, Dubas is said to be looking at the Marlies’ head coach Sheldon Keefe more closely lately. He could be the one Dubas truly wants behind his bench instead of Babcock…
Never say never.