Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Mike Babcock’s Hiring May Not Matter


Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Mike Babcock’s Hiring May Not Matter

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

I’ll gladly hold my hand up and admit I never truly believed Mike Babcock would pick the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, it still all feels slightly surreal, although that doesn’t mean I’m not happy about this dramatic turn of events.

In the end it came down to money and years – we all knew the Leafs had more money to offer than any of the competition. (Although by all accounts, the Buffalo Sabres had offered a similar amount.) However, I really thought Babcock would consider other factors, to put himself in the best possible position.

Regardless, its happened and now we can sit back and all “enjoy” the Leafs journey. We also get to find out if Babcock’s coaching record counts for anything – a coaching record that includes two Winter Olympic golds and two Stanley Cup final appearances, including a win in 2008.

And it’s that resume that we need to consider carefully. That’s because, as much fanfare there has been – and rightly so – over the appointment of the now former Detroit Red Wings coach, it may not even remotely matter in the long run.

Why, I hear you ask? Before Babcock’s hiring, five of the Leafs last six full-time head coaches had also appeared in the Stanley Cup final, prior to being appointed in Toronto.

Don’t believe me? Fine, let’s check them over:

More from Tip of the Tower

Pat Burns (1992-96)

Burns made it to the Stanley Cup final in 1989 with the Montreal Canadiens, before losing to the Calgary Flames. After being fired by the Leafs, he went one better in 2003, win it all with the New Jersey Devils.

Record with the Leafs: 133-107-41 (Three playoff appearances)

Record with other teams: 368-246-124 (Eight playoff appearances)

Mike Murphy (1996-98)

Unfortunately for Murphy, he’s the odd man out on this list, having never made the final. He coached two seasons in Toronto, but failed to qualify both times. (Something Leafs Nation are unfortunately all too familiar with these days.)

Record with the Leafs: 60-87-17 (Zero playoff appearances)

Record with other teams: 20-37-8 (One playoff appearance)

Pat Quinn (1998-2006)

Quinn made two losing appearances in the Stanley Cup final before coming to Toronto, with the Philadelphia Flyers (1980) and the Vancouver Canucks (1994). It should also be noted that – like Babcock, he coached Team Canada to a gold medal, winning at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Record with the Leafs: 300-196-78 (Six playoff appearances)

Record with other teams: 384-332-110 (Nine playoff appearances) 

Paul Maurice (2006-08) 

Feb 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy look on from behind the bench against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Jets 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Before joining the Leafs, the underrated Maurice took the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup final in 2002. Interestingly, he returned to Carolina after leaving Toronto, and enjoyed immediate success, taking them back to the Conference finals.

Record with the Leafs: 76-66-22 (Zero playoff appearances)

Record with other teams: 445-429-163 (Five playoff appearances)

Ron Wilson (2008-12)

Wilson may not have been the most popular guy in Toronto, but he still sits eighth on the all-time list for NHL regular season coaching wins (648). Prior to the Leafs, he went to the playoffs eight times in 14 season, including a Stanley Cup final appearance with the Washington Capitals, in 1998.

Record with the Leafs: 130-135-45 (Zero playoff appearances)

Record with other teams: 518-426-147 (Eight playoff appearances)

Randy Carlyle (2012-15)

In many respects, Carlyle was only really appreciated for the job he did with the Leafs after he left – heck, he’s the one coach to take them to the playoffs in the last 10 seasons. Aside from that, he’s the only other guy on this list apart from Quinn to actually win a Stanley Cup, in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.

Record with the Leafs: 91-78-19 (One playoff appearance)

Record with other teams: 273-182-61 (Five playoff appearances)

Overall, I must stress once again that I am happy for the Leafs and I’ll have absolutely no problem with being proved wrong. However, I just believe it’s worth mentioning this, because – as with most things in life – there are never any guarantees.

By the same token, you at least have to do everything possible to put yourself in the best position. And in that respect, Brendan Shanahan and company have done exactly that, with the hiring of Babock.

Next: Timeline of how Mike Babcock landed with the Leafs