It seems like only yesterday, Toronto Maple Leafs fans were ecstatic about their new addition, but were a little taken aback at the cost. His name and past brought along with it a sense of credibility and steadiness that were long sought-after in this market; yet the price tag left a little room for “I don’t know if I like this…”
Mike Babcock’s arrival in Toronto in May of 2015 was the glimmer of hope the fan base had been looking for. A proven winner with pedigree and a focus that would be needed to turn this tire-fire of an organization toward the sunlight. But this optimism wasn’t shared by everyone across Leafs Nation.
In a survey conducted by @CBCSports at the time of the hire, fans sat on either side of the ‘is he worth it?’ coin with 51% voting YES and 40% NO. It was an interesting moment of hesitation this time for Leaf fans, trending away from the usual over-hyping of free agent additions and appointments of a savior. Maybe an over correction though, as at least this time the addition in question was a Stanley Cup & 2x Gold Medal winning coach who had seen sustained success in every role he’d been in. It’s hard to blame the public though, I mean, enough was enough right? The timing and choice of hire/signing to waver on seemed strange to me.
In years past it was always management promising progress with sprinkles of signings yet failing to deliver an actual long-term sustainable plan, and fans played along. It wasn’t until the Waffle-gate era that it became clear fans had been pushed too far for too long and were now sitting pretty on the side of absolute skepticism. So when promised the club was going to do everything in their power to “do it right” and take their time to build a contender, nobody was in the waiting mood.
Fast forward 3 seasons and here we stand. 93pts (with 18 still up for grabs) and firmly planted in the playoffs, who’s talking about Mike Babcock’s salary?
Who in May of 2015 when faced with the prospect of ‘years of pain’ nobody thought 3 seasons down the road the Maple Leafs would be a shoe-in for now and years to come. Now, it’s natural for naysayers to cite the drafting of Auston Matthews as THE turning point for the franchise. These are the people who subscribe to the savior theory, and don’t get it anyways.
We could go on about the individual accomplishments of the players under his guidance, but Coach Babcock in my opinion has more than earned his keep. He has turned the Toronto Maple Leafs into a team that all others don’t want to face, and provided his team with the mindset of a winner. When you need a strong foundation you don’t skimp on the materials, you spend what it takes to acquire the pieces that are most important. This is where the Toronto Maple Leafs hit the nail on the head.