Toronto Maple Leafs: Myriad of takeaways from Locker Cleanout Day

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen /
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Leafs’ brass gets in their final words

Out of all of the media availabilities that took place on Friday, Babcock’s was by far the longest. The end of season meeting between he and the press lasted nearly 20 minutes and covered everything pertaining to the roster and plans for next season.

However, Babcock did find himself having to answer questions on some topics that arose in the media following Game 7. There were rumours swirling that the relationship between Babcock and Matthews had been soured. Matthews was visibly upset on the bench in the final minutes of the game.

Babcock heard the reports as he was at his daughter’s graduation on Thursday. As per the Toronto Star, he made sure to clear the air with Matthews when he arrived at the Air Canada Centre on Friday:

"“Auston was pissed in the last 10 minutes of the third period. Probably 23 other guys on the team were the same. I think it’s interesting, in Toronto (the media) does such a great job. You’re under the bench, in the crack of the door, in the cars, in the parking lot, you’re everywhere. So anytime anybody does anything, there’s a big story. Sometimes, maybe 12 percent of the time, it’s true. I think Auston and I have a good relationship. I asked him that exactly today. I’ve told Auston a lot that I’ve got a ton of respect for his mom and dad. They parent him. When parents give you their children, they expect you to treat them the way you’d treat your kid. I try to push Auston to be better everyday. I make it very clear if I’m pushing too hard, come in my office and tell me. Sometimes on the bench people snap on people. So what? It’s the game. I asked him straight out if we had any problems, he said ‘We don’t seem to’. I think Auston is a young man trying to be the best player in the world. I think he’s like everybody else on our team: disappointed today. I think the hardest part of being disappointed is thinking you could have done more on your part. He’s a good young man, we’re lucky to have him and I’m lucky to get to coach him and we’re continuing to grow our product here with him leading the way.”"

That lengthy quote put to bed any beliefs that the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs was unhappy immediately.

Babcock was also asked about his thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs being ahead of schedule despite failing to make the second round again. While he stressed that it hurts to make such an early exit, the Leafs’ bench boss stressed how important facing the Bruins was for his players:

"“If you asked me at the time, I’d say we’re miles ahead of the game. In saying that, I’m like every other human being. I’m greedy. We want more. We really thought that this playoff series was great for our young guys. There was no room, no space. It was hard on them. Sometimes the best growing opportunities are those speed bumps in life and they lead to taking the next step because they challenge you mentally and physically. Sometimes getting slapped is the best thing for growth because you dig in that hard. You don’t like the feeling. When we’re suddenly going from winning to losing, nobody on that bench is very happy. You’re disappointed, you’re mad, you’re frustrated, whatever you wanna call it, it’s not the feeling you want to have.”"

While Babcock expects more from his young team going forward, Lamoriello will also be looking for more from the squad he helped to assemble.

As usual, the Toronto Maple Leafs GM held a riveting media availability. The burning question was the status of Lamoriello with the organization and if the 75-year-old would be returning to his position come next year.

The reporter probably knew what Lamoriello was going to say. But if there was any doubt, as per Sportsnet, he didn’t give anything away:

"“Part of my personality is not thinking about myself or worrying about myself. It’s not anything new here and that’s where I’m going to leave that. My focus right now is doing what my responsibilities are and allowing that to take its course.”"

With his contract up, there are people believing that Lamoriello could be supplanted by Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas. The question isn’t whether the Leafs would be willing to allow Dubas to take the reigns, but if Lamoriello is finished as a GM in the NHL.

Like most things to do with personnel decisions on the Leafs, nobody will know until the deal is already done. Perhaps Lou gives the keys to Dubas and Mark Hunter and takes another role in the Leafs’ front office.

Lamoriello was the President of the Devils for decades before leaving for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe he is appointed as the Vice President of Hockey Operations. But if he wants to return, who is going to tell him no?

Next: Leafs' defence fails in another first-round exit

There will be a ton of news to come involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans have a chance to enjoy the rest of the NHL playoffs before the Draft rolls around in June. Then, the real fun starts for the team. New faces will riddle the roster next season, be it from free agency, trade, or through the system. While being bounced from the playoffs isn’t fun for anyone, the best is yet to come for the Leafs.