Mike Commodore

Marner, Babcock respond to ‘hardest working Leafs’ list

7 Comments

Now that the coaching change has finally been made, the stories about what life was like during the Mike Babcock era of the Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to surface.

The most unbelievable one so far came out over the weekend.

It was then that the Toronto Sun‘s Terry Koshan revealed that during the 2016-17 season, Babcock had asked one of the team’s rookies “to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic.”

The rookie, not wanting to upset his coach, went through with the list only to have Babcock then tell the players at the bottom of the list where they stood.

That rookie turned out to be Mitch Marner, one of the core building blocks of the Maple Leafs’ organization.

According to Ian Tulloch of The Leafs Nation, Marner placed himself at the very bottom of the list with both sides (Marner and Babcock) agreeing he had to work harder without the puck. Forwards Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri were reportedly two of the more prominent names at the bottom and were later informed by Babcock of their rating in Marner’s eyes.

On Monday, Marner was asked about the situation and went on the record confirming that it actually happened.

“I’d say it was just surprising,” said Marner. “It was so long ago now, honestly I really kind of forgot about it until the report came out. It’s over with now and done with. I was lucky enough the guys that were there with me, none of them took it to heart and they knew it wasn’t up to me.”

He was also asked if he felt Babcock’s task had crossed a line.

“It was my first year, I didn’t really know what to think of it, but it’s over with now,” said Marner. “I’m looking forward to the new change and seeing how I can help this team under Sheldon.”

Babcock also responded on Monday by telling Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman: “I was trying to focus on work ethic with Mitch — focusing on role models — ended up not being a good idea. I apologized at (the) time.”

It is one thing to want a young player to have a strong work ethic and point out positive role models on the team, but there is probably a better way to go about it than the way Babcock did. And by probably, I mean definitely, and by better, I mean almost literally any other way. Putting a 19-year-old rookie on the spot like that — a player that is in a position to almost certainly do whatever the coach asks them to do — is no way to win over favor in the locker room.

This is pretty much an extension of the mind games coaches and executives play when they try to take on the role of amateur psychologist at scouting combines, asking ridiculous — or even insulting — questions to try and get a reaction to see how they respond.

Babcock probably isn’t the first coach to employ some sort of tactic like this, and he will almost certainly not be the last (not that it makes the situation any better — it’s bad no matter who does it).

It is also not unfair to say that Babcock now has a growing list of former players that are either critical of his coaching style, or just flat out do not like him.

Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore has been Babcock’s most vocal critic on social media, while former Maple Leafs defender Mark Fraser offered a little more insight in the wake of Toronto’s coaching change this past week. Fraser said, among other things, that Babcock is a coach that “95 percent of his former players can’t say a good thing about.”

Fraser’s entire Twitter thread on the subject is here.

Babcock also drew harsh criticism in Toronto earlier this season when he made Jason Spezza, a Toronto native and respected veteran, a healthy scratch in what would have been his first ever game for the Maple Leafs. To outsiders it probably wasn’t that big of a deal, but when added into the context of how some of his former players feel he unjustly treats them — as well as this story regarding Marner — it certainly stands out a little bit more.

It has only been two games since the coaching change, but the Maple Leafs already seem like a looser, more energized, and most importantly better team.

MORE:
Maple Leafs fire Babcock, name Keefe head coach
Underachieving Maple Leafs needed this change
Where will Mike Babcock end up after Maple Leafs?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Habs will likely invite Commodore to training camp

2 Comments

The Montreal Canadiens are set to invite veteran defenseman Mike Commodore to training camp, according to a report from RDS.

Commodore, 33, signed a deal with Montreal’s AHL Hamilton affiliate in November in the hopes of continuing his NHL career — he’s since appeared in 13games with the Bulldogs, registering one assist and 24 PIM.

The 33-year-old split last season between Detroit and Tampa Bay, notching two assists in 30 games while averaging just over 12 minutes per night.

The Lightning didn’t extend Commodore’s contract for 2012-13, making him an unrestricted free agent.

While the invite’s a positive step for Commodore, he’ll be in tough finding a spot on Montreal’s crowded blueline. Seven guys (Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle, Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin, Francis Bouillon, Raphael Diaz, Yannick Weber) are currendly under contract and an eighth — PK Subban — will reportedly be signed soon.

Offseason Report: Tampa Bay Lightning

11 Comments

From July 16-Aug 16, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

38-36-8, 84 points. 10th in Eastern Conference, third in Southeast Division.

Additions

Matt Carle, Anders Lindback (trade), Sami Salo, Matt Taormina, Benoit Pouliot, B.J. Crombeen (trade), Kyle Wilson (trade), Dmitry Korobov

Departures

Dwayne Roloson, Brett Clark, Bruno Gervais, Tim Wallace, Mike Commodore, Sebastien Caron (trade)

2012 Draft

10th overall – Slater Koekkoek (D – Peterborough – OHL)

19th overall – Andrei Vasilevskiy (G – Ufa 2 – Russia)

Looking back

The 2011-2012 season was an admitted let down for the Lightning after coming within one win of the Stanley Cup finals the year before.  While Steve Stamkos was his usual dominant self scoring 60 goals and finishing with 97 points, the area where Tampa got killed was in goal.

Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon had fits where they couldn’t stop a beach ball and the team finished dead last in goals against (281). Even in a Southeast Division that was rather craptacular, that’s not going to get you anywhere. That made it tough to watch as goaltending is what helped the Lightning get as far as they did the year before.

Looking forward

Things are shaping up to be interesting this season, however. Adding Anders Lindback as their new No. 1 goalie puts the focus on goaltending right away. Lindback played for two seasons in Nashville while not getting much work behind Pekka Rinne. Can he prove to be a legitimate No. 1 guy?

Bringing back Matt Carle to help shore up the defense was a sneaky strike from GM Steve Yzerman as the defensive unit needed help. Sami Salo should help the power play out quite a bit as well.

Taking a flier on Benoit Pouliot to add to their top six will give them more speed and occasional goals while adding B.J. Crombeen to solidify the bottom six forwards will give them a bit more grit. With the improvements Washington and Carolina made this offseason, the Lightning hope to hang in that race for the top.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of the Lightning’s 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

Lightning coach Boucher on injury-ravaged team: “I don’t know who’s going to play tonight”

8 Comments

To say Tampa Bay is a mixed bag at the moment is putting it lightly.

Yesterday, the team acquired defensemen Keith Aulie, Brian Lee and Mike Commodore at the deadline. Lee and Commodore made practice on Tuesday (Aulie was held up waiting for a visa) and were joined by recent waiver claim Tim Wallace, plus three call-ups from AHL Norfolk — Brandon Segal, Mike Angelidis and Trevor Smith — with a fourth, Evan Oberg, en route.

The reason for all the new faces? Well, Vincent Lecavalier (hand), Ryan Shannon (upper-body), Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) and Victor Hedman (upper-body) are out with injuries. Oh yeah, a stomach virus also hit the Lightning dressing room, forcing Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and Brendan Mikkelson home from practice.

As such, nobody’s quite sure who’ll suit up to face Montreal this evening. One thing’s for certain, though — head coach Guy Boucher’s never seen anything like it.

“I don’t know who’s going to play tonight,” Boucher told NHL.com. “We’ll just see what we put on the ice.”

Outside of his top forward line (Ryan Malone, Steve Stamkos, Martin St. Louis) and defensive pairing (Eric Brewer, Brett Clark), Boucher is basically guessing at the rest of his lineup. Seriously, guessing. Here’s his explanation for pairing Commodore and Lee.

“We’ll play Commodore and Lee together, since they both won’t know what’s happening,” Boucher said. “We’ll try to help them both at the same time.”

Speaking of Commodore, he’s not exactly well-rested heading into tonight’s game.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I got to bed around 3 a.m,” he explained of his trade deadline experience. “I was in Tampa by 11 p.m. but I couldn’t fall asleep. A lot happened yesterday. I had a couple of hours to get things packed and catch a flight.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a nap today and be ready to go.”

Who’s wearing what number after the trade deadline?

9 Comments

With 16 deals involving 32 players, the 2011-12 NHL trade deadline featured plenty of number switches. Here’s a quick rundown of who will be wearing what heading into Tuesday’s play.

Vancouver

In a weird twist, Zack Kassian has opted for No. 9 — the same number Cody Hodgson (the guy Kassian was traded for) wore this season. Marc-Andre Gragnani will wear No. 5 (his Buffalo number, 17, is worn by Ryan Kesler) while Samuel Pahlsson will wear No. 26, a number he’s had since 2001.

Buffalo

Hodgson will wear No. 12 (Update: This was erroneously reported by NHL Network’s Brian Duff. Hodgson will wear No. 19) while Alex Sulzer will sport the No. 52 he wore as a Predator and Canuck.

San Jose

T.J. Galiardi, who wore No. 39 in Colorado, will rock No. 37 with the Sharks (39 is property of Logan Couture). Daniel Winnik will retain the No. 34 he wore with the Avs and previously, the Coyotes.

Colorado

No word on what number Jamie McGinn will wear. He’s probably free to keep his No. 64, though — he’d become the first-ever Avalanche player to wear it if he does.

New York Rangers

John Scott will wear No. 28 after donning No. 36 with Minnesota and, most recently, No. 32 with the Blackhawks.

Boston

Brian Rolston turned back the clock and chose No. 12, the same number he wore with the Bruins from 2000-04. (Note: the last Boston player to wear No. 12 was Tomas Kaberle…maybe it’s not too late for Rolston to switch.) Mike Mottau is wearing No. 27 like he did in New Jersey, while Greg Zanon is No. 6.

Chicago

Johnny Oduya is wearing No. 27. His preferred number, 29 (which he wore in New Jersey, Atlanta and Winnipeg) is property of Bryan Bickell.

Ottawa

Matt Gilroy will continue to wear No. 97, becoming the highest jersey number in Senators history. Prior to Gilroy, the honor went to Stan Neckar (94), Mika Zibanejad (93), Alexandre Daigle (91) and Mike Comrie (89).

Tampa Bay

Brian Lee will wear No. 15, Keith Aulie No. 3 and Mike Commodore continues to disappoint his fans by refusing to wear No. 64 — instead, he’ll go with No. 23.

Edmonton

The Oilers Twitter feed says Nick Schultz will wear No. 15, becoming the 31st Oiler to wear that number — a long, illustrious list that includes Alex Tidey, Miroslav Frycer, Tomas Srsen and Joe Hulbig. For some reason, No. 15 has been out of circulation since Joffrey Lupul wore it in 2007.

Minnesota

Tom Gilbert had no problems retaining his No. 77. No Wild player has worn it since Lubomir Sekeras from 2001-03.

Nashville

Andrei Kostitsyn keeps No. 46 (and, presumably, his AK-46 nickname) while Paul Gaustad keeps his No. 28.