Responding to Thoughts on the Leafs Hiring Babcock

Coach Mike Babcock (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Coach Mike Babcock (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It’s a given that whenever there is a big story, there will be a lot of (let us diplomatically say) odd thoughts coming out in the surrounding commentary.  It’s not like newspapers were ever infallible, but now with a massive amount of blogs and then comments from the public, everyone has a voice and chance to air their thoughts.

That is a good thing.

But it also means that some things are going to catch on and take a life of their own, when in fact they are not terribly well thought ideas in the first place.  This is how false narratives develop. The intent of this article is to proverbially ‘nip those in the bud,’ if you’ll allow me to quote my grandma.

Now don’t get me wrong here: Just because I’m writing responses to some things I’ve seen commonly mentioned, that doesn’t mean I think those things are dumb. Wrong? Yes. Dumb? No. I just don’t agree and I want to have a conversation about it.

Now, far be it for me to sound like I’m getting on my high-horse here because people tell me how stupid my opinions are every day and sometimes they’re even right.

You’ll agree with some of these and disagree with some. I am not asking anyone to conform to my way of thinking, just suggesting alternatives to what I consider are some not-very-well-thought ideas – all of which I have seen multiple times on multiple formats/medias.  (In case you were wondering why they aren’t attributed to anyone).



Responding to Things Said in the Wake of Babcock’s Hiring by the Leafs:

1. The Leafs overpaid 

How can you overpay for a coach when coaches are so underpaid? Babcock makes peanuts compared to the NFL, where in 2012 49ers head-coach Jim Harbaugh was the LOWEST paid coach in the NFC at $5 million/year, according to Forbes.

Relative to the players, NHL coaches are massively underpaid.  Relative to other sports, including College Football/Basketball, NHL coaches are underpaid.

Mike Babcock is considered the best and they paid the price it took to get him.

Babcock also lends an unprecedented amount of credibility to what is an unproven and untested management group.

Also, he’s considered the best coach in the NHL.

If anything, the Leafs got a deal.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
. [photo: Amy Irvin]
2. He just took the money; he leveraged the Sabre’s offer. 

What is so bad about taking the money? Especially when you’re taking it from billionaires? Say what you want, but guessing when each team is going to win a championship is foolish. There’s no guarantees the Red Wings or Sabres can or will be real Cup Contenders before the Leafs.

Why is it in sports, where guys have talent and abilities that are so rare as to be worth millions of dollars, that people are expected to make decisions based on romance and purity?

Ever heard one person bitch about a plumber taking a higher paying job at a different company?

No? Me neither.

And the fact that he might have leveraged one team against another? I bet Terry Pegula became a billionaire by refusing to engage in cut-throat business practices, right?  According to Wikipedia, the guy made his money in the energy business, which, of course is renowned for a  morality and high-handed, socially conscious and all-around friendly industry.

So I guess it makes sense to hold Babcock to a ridiculous standard whereby he thanks everyone for their offer and politely chooses where to go based on who is the nicest.

3. Can Babcock fix what is wrong with Dion Phanuef?

This one is especially annoying since there is nothing wrong with Dion Phaneuf.

The only problem Dion’s ever had with his game is being improperly utilized.  Play him on the second pairing, shelter him to take advantage of his strengths, and let someone else QB the PP so he can just blast off shots, and he’ll be fine.

In fact, since you only have  to replace him anyways, I’d argue the Leafs would be smart to keep Dion and “fix” him by acquiring players that move him down the depth chart.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

4. Shanahan puns 

Shanaplan? Are you kidding me? My eyes don’t even roll far enough back to hear that once, let alone FIFTY THOUSAND TIMES.

5. Fast Tracking the Rebuild. 

The idea is that somehow hiring Babcock means the Leafs will somehow forget what got them into this trouble in the first place, abandon all their plans and re-up for a run at 8th place next year.

That isn’t going to happen. The worst case scenario is that Babcock gets the team to play above their head and they don’t get a top draft pick. Well, the Leafs were never going to tank next season on purpose anyways and if your entire rebuild plan actually involves just losing and picking top- three for five years, then ten Babcocks couldn’t save you.

The marginal value of a slightly higher pick is not worth the cost of what Babcock can bring to a team. So, all this “they need Babcock in three years”  is just pure non-sense by people who, I suspect, would complain about anything.

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

6. You don’t hire a coach before you hire a GM

Yes you do. Here’s the thing: if you hire a GM who wants his own guy instead of Mike Babc0ck, you hired the wrong GM. Also, I explained it in detail here.

7. The Leafs are going to be bad for a “minimum of five years”

“You’re an idiot if you think this will take less than five years,” is what someone said to me yesterday.  Then I am an idiot. How can you possibly put a time-line on how long it will take to build a team when there are so many variables and so much luck involved? It’s a totally random guess that sounds good. Five years?  Sure.

It could take that long, but it’s not a minimum and I don’t even think it’s probable. Yes the Leafs had a bad year, but people act like their roster is barren and that they’ll get nothing back for the assets they have.  If you were to convert Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Bozak, Phaneuf, Polak and Bernier into young players and picks, that is going to get you back several “years” worth of picks and prospects. Add to what’s already here a quick turnaround without taking any bizarre short-cuts is clearly possible.

I have no problem with, and I fully realize that it could take, five years. But stop talking like it’s automatic and impossible to do in less time.  I personally believe the Leafs are in a lot better position than most people seem willing to admit or acknowledge.