The Toronto Maple Leafs’ brass responded to the team’s disappointing 9-10-4 start to its season by firing coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday.
Babcock spent the better part of five seasons manning the ship in Toronto, compiling a 173-133-45 record; he finished fifth on the Leafs’ all-time coaching wins list behind Punch Imlach (370), Pat Quinn (300), Hap Day (259) and Dick Irvin (216).
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After the firing, TSN and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun spoke with Babcock, who released a statement that included this: “I thought we did an amazing job taking a franchise from where it was to where we had 100-point seasons, we set franchise records if I’m not mistaken, got into the playoffs. I’m disappointed, we didn’t have the start to the year we wanted and that’s on me.”
He added that he wanted to thank the fans, media and the city. He also gave a shoutout to assistant captain Morgan Rielly, saying, “Morgan Rielly has been here the whole time. I can’t thank him enough.”
Babcock ended the statement by wishing the players “nothing but success.”
While it wasn’t addressed, Babcock not acknowledging general manager Kyle Dubas or team president Brendan Shanahan in the statement suggests a rift between the two factions. Shanahan was with the team when Babcock was hired but Lou Lamoriello, whom Babcock did mention in the statement, was the general manager. Lamoriello is now the New York Islanders’ president of hockey operations and general manager.
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In the Leafs’ press release announcing the move, Shanahan noted, “Mike’s commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here.”
Babcock’s assistant coaches, Paul McFarland, Dave Hakstol and Andrew Brewer, will all remain with the Maple Leafs.
Babcock, who coached the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008, also told LeBrun, “I really do believe that every general manager should have his own coach.” Dubas will have that now after naming Sheldon Keefe the 31st head coach in franchise history.