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Last night we shared with you what was a rather disturbing story regarding the way former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had treated some of his most vulnerable players. Specifically the story focused on an incident that took place involving a rookie Mitch Marner during a father and son road trip with the Maple Leafs and although it was a bad a lot of the details were missing from that initial report.
Today The Athletic's Ian Tulloch has decided to speak out on this matter after verifying the information he has obtained with multiple sources, and needless to say it is even worse than you would have originally believed if you had just read our initial report. Tulloch has shown a willingness to name all of the players involved in this incident and unfortunately it paints the Babcock era in Toronto in a rather disturbing light, all the while lending credence to some of Babcock's harshest critics.
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.
When you take this all on board it now makes sense why players like the aforementioned Mitch Marner and Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews refused to budge during contract negotiations. If they were to sign long term deals with the Leafs there was the expectation that they would be playing under Mike Babcock as their head coach, and who would agree to be in that type of situation for anything less than their maximum possible value? There is one more thing to note here though that now also seems considerably more disturbing.
Last week we reported on the fact that both former National Hockey League veterans Mike Commodore and Mark Fraser spoke out regarding Babcock's treatment of his former players. At the time you could have easily brushed it off as two former players who were simply bitter about the way their careers ended, although Fraser only ever played a single exhibition game under Babcock, but now it seems highly likely that they were also speaking the truth. If you happened to have missed what either man had to say regarding the former Maple Leafs bench boss I would highly recommend you check that out in our report from just last week.
I personally have never heard so much backlash focused on a head coach after he was fired, and given the sheer number of sources speaking out on this matter I must admit I am no longer willing to give Mike Babcock the benefit of the doubt here.