Mike Babcock has done a lot of good things as head coach in the National Hockey League and elsewhere. But coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs won’t be something that he has a long chat with his grandkids about one day.
A second Game 7 loss in as many years against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night only added to Babcock’s (perhaps notorious) inability to push Toronto into the deep waters of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s now 8-12 as a bench boss in the postseason in Toronto and it might have been his worst in terms of decision-making.
How does Auston Matthews play just 15:18 of five-on-five time (18:48 total) in a game where the Bruins led 2-0 after the first period?
How does William Nylander, who finished with 12:55 in the game, not get linked back up with Matthews earlier than midway or so through the third? Why was he hobbled by his linemates?
Why did John Tavares not play in the mid-20s? The guy had 47 goals and was signed for a massive contract for his potential in these situations, right?
Why weren’t lines consolidated sooner so that the young, skilled superstars on the team could go out there and give it their best go?
Why was Patrick Marleau afforded 1:40 of power-play time when his record with the man-advantage was this poor? Why was he playing meaningful minutes in the third when the bench could have been shortened (and should have been) much sooner?
What would Sheldon Keefe do?
How long with this be allowed to go on?
No doubt, that last question is going to be hotly debated over coming days and weeks. Babcock is a great coach with aging ideas that aren’t working when they need to with a youthful lineup.
Never mind their now-52-year Stanley Cup drought — it’s been 15 years since they won a series.
Maybe Babcock has taken the team as far as they can go.
Nazem Kadri has lost his head twice now in the past two playoffs, throwing a massive wrench into the mix. Kadri, when calm, is effective and he showed that prior to losing his cool in Game 2. But getting suspended for the remainder of the series was as about selfish as it gets.
Babcock told the media in Boston after the name that not having Kadri impacted Nylander’s minutes.
That’s a bit of a stretch, however. And it reeks of unimaginative thinking, something that might cost Babcock his job.
Because when you’re staring elimination in the face, playing your eldest players over your younger, more skilled crop just doesn’t produce the same yield it once did.
Matthews et al needed to be playing. The talent suggests it. The investment made in these players suggests it.
Why doesn’t the head coach?