Toronto Maple Leafs: Babcock and Dubas need to find solution for team’s struggles

Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs sets up for a tip in attempt in front of goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs sets up for a tip in attempt in front of goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs followed up a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a terrible one against the Florida Panthers and Mike Babcock needs to own up for it.

We are getting to the point in the Toronto Maple Leafs season where the goodwill the team built up at the start of the season is starting to evaporate with each disappointing performance.

One rough stretch shouldn’t erase everything a team has done from the beginning of the season to now but with little margin for error in a tight Atlantic division race, a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers could prove to be costly down the road. The frustrating part is seeing the Leafs put forth a strong effort against the best team in the league only to follow it up with a dud against the 25th ranked team.

Fans have taken their frustrations out on players like William Nylander and Jake Gardiner for how their recent performance, the players should not take the full brunt of it. This is where head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Kyle Dubas need to assume some of the responsibility for what is happening with the team.

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When the team is struggling to make the proper adjustments, the head coach has to own up to, at least to a certain degree. As much as the Leafs rely on their skill, Babcock has made it a point to call out the team’s work ethic.

Right now, only one line seems to be making an impact for Toronto over a consistent stretch and that has been John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Babcock has tried to juggle lines hoping to spark something with Auston Matthews, Nylander, Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau. None of that seems to have the desired effect so maybe the problem extends past that.

The strength of this team is the depth of their attack and right now teams have kept their gameplan against the Leafs pretty simple. Too often, the Leafs have been guilty of relying too much on stretch passes or failing to adjust to team’s trying to limit their time and speed in the neutral zone.

There is only so much Babcock can do to engage his club but maybe the message isn’t sinking in. If it isn’t, he should show them a current snapshot of the standings to make his team realize where their play has not been to the standards the team has set out.

Dubas is responsible for the product on the ice, while the Tavares signing has proven to be a win for the first-time GM, there are still issues plaguing this team from previous seasons. This is something Dubas has addressed in the media but how long can he wait before a move has to be made?

Unfortunately, this might be the worst time for the GM to attempt a deal since many teams will look to take advantage of the Leafs’ recent struggles.  While the worst thing Dubas can do is make a panic move, he can’t just sit around and pretend like everything is fine with the team.

You can tell the weight of his slump is getting to Nylander and while he won’t admit that it has to do with his contract, it is the reason why he continues to play catchup. While fans are quick to make the connection with the Leafs struggles to Nylander’s return, there have been many factors contributing to this tough stretch.

One player can’t be blamed for the struggles of a team but someone can speak up and let it be known that it is unacceptable. We have seen it with Marleau in the past and maybe the right message needs to be communicated between the players or maybe Babcock and Dubas need to find the right way to motivate the team.

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What do you think about the Leafs’ latest struggles? Is it too early to panic or are you optimistic in them turning it around? Let us know in the comments below.