Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Dubas’ Quinella, Babcock & Bunting

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at general manager Kyle Dubas’ gamble on the two goalies he brought to the team – Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Much of the season’s success rests on their catching gloves.

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Second, I’ll take a look at what former-Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock might be doing in retirement. Finally, I’ll look at one of the unique considerations that have emerged this season – who will the next Michael Bunting be? To me, that catchphrase suggests something interesting about the psyche of the organization.

Item One: Dubas’ Bet on a Goalie Quinella

Having attended the University of Kentucky for my first two university degrees, I spent a lot of enjoyable days watching the thoroughbreds race at Keeneland just outside of Lexington. In horse racing betting terminology as many fans know, there are two bets one can make when trying to pick the two horses you believe are the best in the field for any race. 

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Alana Davidson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Betters can bet an exacta, which means choosing the two horses in any race you believe will come in first and second, and choosing the “exact” order in which you believe they will finish. If you are right and pick that exact order, you win. Second, you can choose to bet a quinella. That’s where you choose the two horses you believe will come in first and second, and if they do so – in either order of finish – you win. 

That’s essentially what Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas did when he brought in his two goalies for this season. He bet a quinella.

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Logic suggests that one or the other of these two goalies will play well enough to carry the team. If they both do, even better and Dubas has won the exacta. If either of them plays well enough to carry the team, Dubas has won the quinella. 

Either way works, actually. In an insightful article written by Jon Steitzer of LeafsNation last month, Steitzer called Dubas more of a card counter than a gambler. Since I read that, I’ve been reflecting on Dubas’ moves using that metaphorical lens. There is an aspect of that in Dubas’ moves. If he rolls the dice, he wants them to be a bit weighted in his favor.

Toronto Maple Leafs Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov
Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov are now the Maple Leafs Duo (The Hockey Writers)

The truth is that betting on one of two goalies – Matt Murray and/or Ilya Samsonov – returning to form is a much safer bet than risking the season betting on only one such goalie, whether that goalie is Murray, Samsonov, or even when considering bringing back Jack Campbell. 

Going with one goalie brings tons more risk than going with two goalies. If I were Dubas (and I obviously can’t read his mind), in the back of my mind I would remember last season’s experience. Even when Campbell went down to injury, as raw as they both were Joseph Woll and Erik Kallgren played well enough that the team kept winning. Why would this season be different?

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To extend the horse-racing metaphor, given that both Murray and Samsonov have a history of success, who’s to say the track at Scotiaplace Arena won’t be a fast track this season? I’d think there’s at least a chance that one of these goalies could carry this team. 

As I note often, that’s part of the fun of the regular season. We’ll soon see.

Item Two: What Does ex-Maple Leafs’ Head Coach Mike Babcock Do in the Offseason?

Recently, former Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock announced his retirement from coaching after spending last season as a volunteer head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

In making his announcement, he noted that “My wife and I have discussed this a ton … We can do what we want. And that’s what we’re doing,” 

Babcock added about retirement. “We’re enjoying it. We always said we were going to retire at 60, and I’m 59.” (from “If Maple Leafs ex-coach Mike Babcock does retire, it’s a stunning fall from grace in an otherwise impressive career,” Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star, 01/09/2022).

Mike Babcock Toronto Maple Leafs
Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was interesting reading what Babcock said in his interview about his passions. These include hunting, water skiing, and downhill skiing. It also noted that he owns a number of farms in Ohio (of all places), and that’s where he hunts. 

While I was not surprised that Babcock was an avid hunter, I was surprised to hear that he’s “addicted” to a water-skiing course at his Michigan lake house. He also likes spending time skiing in Vail, Colorado, or in Palm Springs, California. 

There’s no contesting his statement that “Life Is good for the Babcocks, and we enjoy it a lot, to say the least.” 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

One of the most interesting catchphrases that have emerged this offseason is that the Maple Leafs are “looking for the next Michael Bunting.” It has come up regularly in posts I’ve read and I’ve used it myself a time or two. 

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The phrase gives a sense of how key Bunting’s signing was to the team in the last offseason and what an important role he’s played in the team’s sense of success. Now his presence has become part of the team’s psyche as well.

It’s interesting and begs the obvious question. Who will the Maple Leafs’ next Michael Bunting be? Thoughts from THW readers?

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