Toronto Maple Leafs: Mike Babcock reaches special milestone against Anaheim

With the exciting 7-4 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night, Mike Babcock reached 100 victories with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s fair to say Monday night was eventful for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact “eventful” might be an understatement, in a game which featured 11 goals and you lost your number one goaltender to injury.

(Frederik Andersen left the action in the second period. His injury is apparently not too serious and he has been provisionally listed as day-to-day, but more should be known sometime on Tuesday.)

With everything that happened on Monday night, a significant achievement was almost overlooked. With the 7-4 win, Mike Babcock reached 100 victories with the Leafs.

Understandably, actually reaching 100 wins is not too much of a — if any — surprise. When you sign a deal which makes you the highest-paid coach in NHL history, it’s the least a guy can do. (Babcock’s $6.25 million (US) annual salary puts him more than double ahead of anyone else.)

However, what makes the milestone victory so impressive, is how quickly Babcock achieved the accomplishment. He reached the 100-victory milestone in less than three seasons, which is something no one could have envisioned when he took over.

As most Toronto Maple Leafs fans well know, the organisation was a mess when the 54-year-old came on board. The Buds had only made one playoff appearance in 10 years and that was after the strike-shortened season in 2012/13.

The situation didn’t improve during Babcock’s first season in charge, as the Leafs finished with the worst record in the entire league, compiling just 29 wins and 69 overall points. In fairness though, losing was by design — unofficially — and the Manitouwadge, Ontario native still received praise for coaching the team through a difficult campaign.

However, things started to turn around for the better when the Leafs won the 2016 first overall pick in the draft lottery. They used it to select a certain player called Auston Matthews.

From that point on, the Leafs arguably moved ahead of schedule, as they won 40 games last season (40-27-15) and qualified for the playoffs. And even though they were knocked out in the first round, they gave a Washington Capitals team with the NHL’s best record all they could handle.

This season has had its challenges, with Babcock even receiving his first real criticism during his reign as Leafs coach. However, if there’s anyone built to handle the intense Toronto sports media, it’s him.

In any event, when it comes right down to it, who are the media to question a man who has had as much consistent success as the former Detroit Red Wing coach? We’re talking about a guy who has coached teams to 12 playoff appearances in 14 years, and is primed to once again qualify this season.

Yes, Babcock can be tough on the players and stubborn at times, but he has also proved his ability to adapt. While the undisciplined, sloppy play of the blue line must frustrate the hell out of him at times, he has also showed he is willing to let the dogs off the leash at the other end of the ice.

In that respect, Monday night’s 7-4 win was as un-Babcock like as it was special. Ultimately though, neither him or the fans will care, as long as he adds his second Stanley Cup at some point during his time in Toronto.

Be honest, when Babcock first took over as Leafs coach, did you believe he would reach 100 wins by this stage? Overall, what is your take on the job he’s done in Toronto? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.