Toronto Maple Leafs: The New Guy in Town


Toronto Maple Leafs: The New Guy in Town

So, as reported here first on Tip of the Tower, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Mike Babcock to an eight-year, $50 million dollar deal. He will be the third highest salary on the Leafs behind only Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phaneuf.

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So, Mike Babcock eh? Boss! That’s a great hire for the Leafs, and to be frank, the Leafs should have the best of everything. I know there’s a salary cap, so they can’t just buy the Canadian Olympic team, but things not affected by the cap — such as a coach’s salary — then why shouldn’t the NHL’s most popular team, “Canada’s team”, the team that grosses the most money in the league (and still continually disappoints its fans the most since 1967), the team that unjustly charges the most money per ticket for a lousy product… why shouldn’t they have the best of everything? If they’re that rich, then they should.

So, of course, hiring the best coach available — that should be the least they can do. Seriously, try to give the Leafs’ fans something. By ponying up to pay Babcock, it appears that MLSE is, well, trying. Which is a start.

Apr 13, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan talks to the press during a press conference at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

So why the heck would Babcock want to come to Toronto? Well, the idea seems pretty ridiculous. To leave Detroit, who has made the playoffs for 24 consecutive seasons, to go to Toronto, a team who can’t even make the playoffs, much less win a round — that’s preposterous actually. Cynics — and possibly realists — say,  “there goes his reputation… and career” from signing with the Leafs, leaving his ever-consistent, highly achieving Wings. So, why would he do it?

The best idea I can give you — with several theories — is that he wants the challenge.  The Toronto Maple Leafs are one heck of a challenge. Not only is this a crazed hockey market, where scrutiny is interminable, but Toronto provides a challenge that Detroit is not.

Detroit may be closer to the Cup, but they’re not exactly on the cusp, either. Plus, there’s much more to lose in Detroit if they fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. I wouldn’t wanna be that guy who drops that ball. Now, Babcock won’t be that guy.

Plus, he’s already won in Detroit. I know it’s the Cup and it’s special every time, but if he won again in Detroit, there’d have to be some “been there, done that” feeling to it. Winning there is expected. Winning in Toronto is not; winning here is much more coveted. Winning here would be holy — he’d honestly be a God if he won here.

Plus, who gets the credit if the Leafs actually do win? Babcock will get ALL the credit. If Babcock wins with the Wings, sure, he’ll get credit, but that credit will be spread out among factors like: what incredible drafting they do? What a GM Ken Holland is? How sleek Pavel Datsyuk is and how good Henrik Zetterberg is. Babcock may not go overlooked, but he would nevertheless have to share.

May 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs new head coach Mike Babcock talks to reporters after a media conference to announce his signing with the club at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If Babcock wins in TO, he will be the hero of everything. If he loses here, oh well, he’s supposed to. Lose for awhile here anyway… and he has eight years to turn the ship around. It seems that for now, he has a ton of rope to work with. So basically, he has nothing to lose by coming here since the Leafs are supposed to be bad and he has time to get the job done. By that point, it seems like a job with no pressure, but let’s not forget that this is Toronto, the hockey mecca of sports media. I don’t think they would be doing their jobs if they just patiently waited eight years before asking hard questions and making the public wonder.

Lastly, Toronto appeals because it has virtually unlimited funds and will spend the money necessary to win. I know this is a GM’s duties, but Babcock knows his bosses will spend. Even though a rebuild is the plan, if the team can win now, MLSE will put up the funds to field a decent team. For a coach, this makes winning more possible.

The cons? Well the relentless media, the starved fans and city, the team being a mess, and winning does not appear to be imminent. Yeah, there’s all of that. However, Babcock is now the wealthiest paid coach in the league, setting new precedent in that department… so it appears it may be worth it for Babcock. Atleast financially…

Seemingly with almost everybody aboard for what has been dubbed as a “complete rebuild”, it appears that Babcock has a cover if things don’t work out so well. And if things do workout, Babcock achieves royal status in the province. These two items combined almost ensure that the reward is greater than the risk.

This seems to me like the best explanation as to why Mike Babcock would come to Toronto to coach the Leafs.

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