Babcock Faces an Uphill Struggle in Toronto

Twitter @mapleleafs

Twitter @mapleleafs

Mike Babcock, to my surprise, has agreed to an eight year 50 million dollar contract to become the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Babcock forewent Buffalo and Detroit and chose the biggest challenge in Toronto. I sincerely wish him well, as it would be great for the passionate Leafs fans and for the NHL to have Toronto competitive again. However, I do not see this ending well for either side.

Toronto has made the playoffs only once since the 2005 lockout and have become the punchline of jokes. Under old management they refused to rebuild, and fell into the ‘compete for eighth’ category and failed at this goal seven out of eight times. When Brendan Shanahan came in last summer Toronto finally seemed to be headed in the right direction. This year was dreadful for Toronto, but it was the beginning of what Shanahan called a ‘scorched-earth’ rebuild.

These types of rebuilds are not fun, but they are necessary and fans understand. Sabres’ fans have suffered these past two seasons but have also kept their eyes on the prize and are now ecstatic about the team’s collection of prospects and future outlook.

Toronto is in need of this sort of cleanse, but now the question is, what impact will Mike Babcock have on the ‘scorched-earth’ rebuild? The most likely answer is that the rebuild plan is abandoned once again and Toronto’s new management falls into the same trap of old management.

Simply put, this was not a good fit for either party. Babcock has never been through a rebuild and his ego combined with a lack of patience will lead him to believe he can win with this group. The team will face higher expectations from fans and media now since Babcock has arrived and is known as a winner. I foresee Babcock trying to win with the current unexceptional Leafs roster and the team returning to limbo as they ‘compete for eighth’.

Hopefully Babcock can rejuvenate players such as Kessel, Phaneuf, and Lupul because they are on board with hefty contracts (Kessel seven years remaining at eight million per, Phaneuf six years remaining at seven million per, and Lupul three years remaining at five and a quarter per). If not, things could get ugly. Mike Babcock, you’ve made your bed now lie in it.