Can the Leafs grow to be the newest mid-season coach firing success story?

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A stunning variety of current Stanley Cup winners have executed so after axing their bench bosses partway by way of the 12 months. Can Toronto pull an analogous miracle?Mike Babcock|Robin Alam/Getty ImagesDo the Toronto Maple Leafs consider in omens? It was most likely only a coincidence to see Mike Babcock fired Nov. 20, 2019, one 12 months and sooner or later after the St. Louis Blues axed Mike Yeo. However the Leafs GM Kyle Dubas hopes he’s placing his group on a parallel path with a drastic mid-season transfer, pink-slipping his $6.5-million coach after 4 seasons and alter, which included a playoff miss throughout a tank 12 months adopted by three first-round exits.
The Babcock firing wasn’t an enormous shock contemplating (a) Dubas tried to drag the set off over the summer season and was reportedly vetoed by group president Brendan Shanahan, (b) Too a lot of Babcock’s direct choices, from enjoying Cody Ceci on the highest protection pair to at all times beginning goalie Frederik Andersen on the primary sport of back-to-backs, had been impacting the group’s outcomes tangibly; and (c) we might see the Leafs, who’ve misplaced six straight video games, quitting on their bench boss visibly. It’s one thing groups have executed so long as hockey has existed, actually, like a unconscious protest, as enjoying marginally higher would solely lengthen the inevitable whereas a pure nosedive brings a couple of teaching change quickly sufficient group has an opportunity to save lots of its season.
All of us keep in mind what occurred with the Blues final season. Certain, goalie Jordan Binnington performed a major function in carrying the group from final place by early January to a Stanley Cup victory, however we are able to’t neglect that Binnington confronted one of many league’s best workloads in keeping with photographs towards and anticipated objectives towards. In different phrases, the group in entrance of him under-promoted coach Craig Berube performed fairly darned nicely. A remark from heart Tyler Bozak on the Stanley Cup remaining media day final 12 months has lodged itself in my head for the previous 5 months. He stated the Blues had been at all times group however simply wanted time to gel as a result of GM Doug Armstrong had made so many radical adjustments the earlier low season.
Bozak was proper. He was one of many new guys, introduced in as a free-agent signing. Becoming a member of him from the UFA pool had been proper winger David Perron and left winger Patrick Maroon. The Blues acquired high heart and eventual Selke and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly in a commerce.
So if the Leafs or their fan base wish to play the optimist, they’ll level out that Dubas massively overhauled the roster this previous summer season, largely as a response to Toronto bombing out in Spherical 1 towards the Boston Bruins but once more. He purchased out left winger Patrick Marleau; traded blueliners Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev; let D-man Jake Gardiner stroll as a UFA; traded heart Nazem Kadri; acquired defenseman Tyson Barrie and heart Alexander Kerfoot; and signed heart Jason Spezza and left winger Ilya Mikheyev. That’s only a fast move of the roster adjustments. There have been extra. So with nearly half a roster overhauled, and lots of core gamers lacking time with accidents – Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Zach Hyman, Travis Dermott – it’s conceivable the Leafs consider they’re a sleeping big with potential to awaken the identical approach the 2018-19 Blues did. Toronto’s particular groups have been nightmarish this season, however they’re the second-best Corsi group within the NHL at 5-on-5, trailing solely the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ve out-attempted their opponents 1,161 to 1,011 and outshot their opponents 598 to 569. So possibly there’s one thing to salvage with a brand new coach.
The Blues aren’t the one current group to fireside a coach in the course of the season and rally to grow to be Cup champs. The Devils famously fired Robbie Ftorek in March 2000 with the group in first place and gained the Cup with Larry Robinson behind the bench. The Pittsburgh Penguins turfed Michel Therrien for Dan Bylsma in February 2009 and gained the Cup. The Los Angeles Kings changed Terry Murray with Darryl Sutter in December 2011 and gained the Cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins gave up on Mike Johnston in December 2015 in favor of Mike Sullivan. Bylsma’s and Sullivan’s tales warrant further consideration, as they’ve the potential to reflect the trail of recent Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe.
Bylsma and Sullivan weren’t assistant or affiliate coaches promoted to the massive job like Robinson and Berube had been, nor had been they established “movie star” hires like Sutter was. Bylsma and Sullivan had been call-ups from the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Sullivan is a very attention-grabbing similar to Keefe in that Sullivan had a ton of expertise shepherding gamers who ended up on the NHL roster the identical season he did, equivalent to Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Matt Murray, every of whom performed essential roles within the Pens’ run to the championship that 12 months.
Keefe, in fact, coached the Calder-Cup successful Toronto Marlies squad of 2017-18, which included present Leafs Andreas Johnsson, Dermott, Frederik Gauthier and Justin Holl as pillars. Different present Leafs who toiled below Keefe as Marlies sooner or later embrace Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander and Hyman. So a good portion of the roster can draw from a earlier rapport with Keefe.
Does it imply Keefe will save this group, that the Leafs can rally from the NHL’s 25th-best factors share to make the playoffs or, gasp, contend for the Stanley Cup? We are able to’t say for sure. The comparative case research are anecdotal. However they’ve some plain similarities. And whereas this group is flawed, it’s gifted. Possibly a brand new artist can mildew the clay into one thing that works.
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Tags: toronto maple leafs, information, teaching, nhlConnect: In regards to the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the group since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair suggestions. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Dwell and The Hockey Information Podcast.

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