In the week since the Toronto Maple Leafs have fired former head coach Mike Babcock, it's been an absolute firestorm of controversy for Babcock. Former players from across the league have come out with stories about playing under Babcock and... well let's just say that Babs doesn't come off looking so great.
In case you missed the story earlier today, multiple reporters shared a story about Babcock and a tactic that he employed with then rookie Mitch Marner during the team's 2016-17 season. Ian Tulloch of The Athletic initially broke the story that essentially goes like this:
To set the stage the Maple Leafs were on a father son road trip when Mike Babcock confronted a then rookie Mitch Marner about what he perceived to be the young player's laziness on and off the ice. In an effort to drive his point home Mike Babcock asked Marner to create a list of all the players on the Maple Leafs roster and then asked him to rank them based on their respective effort level in that particular season. Marner obliged when his coach demanded this of him and according to multiple sources the player put his name in the very last spot on the list as if to acknowledge that he could work much harder. It was a show of maturity on the part of Marner but what the young Maple Leaf did not know at the time was that Babcock had planned to use that list against some of his other players.
Babcock then reportedly took the list and is believed to have shown it to two players in particular, Toronto Maple Leafs veterans Tyler Bozak and Toronto Maple Leafs veteran Nazem Kadri. When you consider that both players are centers and could very well be the men driving the line that Marner would be on at different points in the season, this put the young rookie in a truly terrible position. Unsurprisingly this left Marner devastated and to hear Tulloch describe is nothing short of heartbreaking.
According to multiple sources, Marner was in tears after the details of his list were shared, while his teammates were furious — specifically with Babcock. They couldn’t believe their head coach would put a 19-year-old in that situation, especially considering how well-liked Marner was in the dressing room.
Tulloch has since reached out to his sources around the league to confirm this story, only to learn that an almost identical situation took place with Babcock while he was the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Babcock reportedly did the same thing to an unidentified member of the Red Wings roster, again a very young player, and again shared the answers that player gave him with the rest of his teammates. This stuff sounds like some kind of twisted psychological experiment gone bad.
Yikes... that's no way to gain your team's trust. Babcock, however, has offered up a defense of his actions courtesy of NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, check it out:
Now Marner himself is speaking out about "the list" and... well... we'll let Mitchy tell you himself:
Marner also went on record earlier today and essentially warned leaves fans that there could be more Babcock horror stories to come.
Check it out:
Mitch Marner, speaking about his incident Mike Babcock, and others that might still come out involving other players and other coaches: "If people want to share their stories, do it. If they don’t want to hold it in, it’s your story to tell."
Just a day later though and Marner is walking back things a bit, admitting that... you know what? Things weren't so bad under Babs.
Check out some of these quotes by Marner courtesy of NHL.com reporter Dave McCarthy:
"I texted him right after and said thanks for everything he did here," the forward said Tuesday. "He turned around this team and this franchise, so I just said, 'Good luck wherever it takes you next.' "
"He did apologize after, and I think he knew he was mistaken," Marner said, "but for the three years I was here after that situation, especially my second and third years, he really trusted me out on the ice and I think you could see that.
"I didn't think the lines I was on were bad at all," Marner said. "My first year coming into the League, I got very lucky getting to play with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. If you look at their resume, I was lucky to be with those two guys and then getting to play with Matt Martin for a little bit, and I really appreciated his game of opening up space for myself. The more situations I got put into, it made me evolve more and get better."
"I felt that he had the trust in me to put me out there in situations he didn't in my first year. I had a pretty good relationship with him at the end of it."
"[Babcock] was just trying to show I should work harder, but it's over with now, it's out of my mind," Marner said. "In my case, I kind of forgot about it right away, I didn't really care too much later on. I was lucky enough the guys in the locker room understood the situation and didn't take it to heart and stuck by my side. … It's over with now."
Well... we can all put this to rest now? Right? Right!?