How do Babcock’s 1st 10 games as Leafs coach stack up against Wilson, Carlyle and Horachek?

Mike Babcock’s first ten games as a Leafs Head Coach will
hopefully be his most forgettable games as a Leafs Head Coach. Expecting a
winning record would have been a tall order, not really a desired outcome
considering the desire for another high draft pick or two, but one win still
hurts.

Looking back at the past few coaches to come through
Toronto, rocky starts aren’t out of the ordinary, and arguably the only other
coach who had to deal with being part of a total teardown was Peter Horachek.
Hopefully there are some worthwhile takeaways from looking back at the results
of the previous coaches in comforting us that Babcock era isn’t off to a
horrible start.

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Ron Wilson

Wilson is the only other coach besides Mike Babcock who had the benefit of starting the season with the Leafs and getting in a full training camp with his new team. The results with Wilson were significantly better than what Babcock has experienced, had similar possession numbers, on what was apparently an underperforming Leafs team.

Ron Wilson’s team was almost able to match the success that Paul Maurice’s team had the previous season, and achieved his results largely by the committee approach that Mike Babcock is being forced to take. The forward group didn’t have Sundin or Kessel, and instead relied on 20 goal years from Antropov, Blake, Hagman, Grabovski, and Ponikarovsky. Somehow Blake, Ponikarovsky, and Stajan all managed to break the 50 point mark. 

The defense was probably as good as it is now if not better as Kaberle, Kubina, and that one good year of Ian White were solid. It was also the one year Luke Schenn didn’t look horrible and Anton Stralman got a decent shake when injuries consumed this team. Carlo Coliacovo and Mike van Ryn were important parts of the Wilson’s first 10 games, but injuries and the eventually Steen and Coliacovo for Stempniak trade would take them out of the picture.

As unhappy as we are with Bernier and Reimer at the moment, that’s nothing compared to a Toskala and ancient Joseph tandem. Considering that neither of them had a save percentage near .900 it’s easy to understand the horrible PDO the Leafs suffered that year.

Randy Carlyle

Fast forward to 2012 when the 18 wheeler went off a cliff, and the newly extended Ron Wilson was let go. Randy Carlyle inherited a team that had spent a month and half making sure they’d get May off. Carlyle came in and immediately took Wilson’s 49.3 CF% and dropped it more than a full percentage point in his first ten games. He successfully would take it down almost another point by the end of the season. 
Not surprisingly Carlyle had a losing record, as he managed to do this in all but the lockout shortened season, but in with probably the best Leafs lineup since the 2005 lockout, Carlyle would pick up just six wins in his first 18 games.

Despite not being a team built for Carlyle, this was a team built for Carlyle as he had David Steckel, Keith Aulie, Colton Orr, Mike Brown, Luke Schenn, Jay Rosehill, Colby Armstrong and Dion Phaneuf at his disposal. 

As fashionable as it is to bash Carlyle, it’s worth noting that the goaltenders he had to work with were Gustavsson, Reimer, and Scrivens and once again the team finished with a .900 save percentage.

Peter Horachek

Let’s all pour one out for Peter Horachek, the unfortunate soul who inherited a dysfunctional team playing Randy Carlyle systems. On one hand it was nothing short of a miracle that in his first ten games he brought the Leafs up from a 44.8 CF% to a 47.8 CF%, and had the best possession numbers since Ron Wilson. On the other hand, a 1-8-1 start is the kind of start that makes sure your interim coach tag is also your epitaph. 

Like everyone, but Carlyle in that one good Reimer season, Horachek was largely undone by goaltending that was significantly below the league average, although compared to other years this was hardly the year to complain about goaltending.

Over his first ten games Horachek had to radically overhaul everything the Leafs had been doing, not unlike what we’re currently seeing with Mike Babcock, and without the benefit of a training camp to do so. 
Not long after Horachek’s first ten games the selloff of Franson, Santorelli, and Winnik began and Horachek’s unfortunate Leafs tenure ended. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Horachek’s time as the bench boss is that with a roster quite similar to the current Leafs his record projected out to 45 points. And he had Phil Kessel.

Magic Mike Babcock

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What does this mean for Mike Babcock, well it means about as
much as anything when you compare four coaches with very different styles, very
different rosters, and very different expectations, not very much.

What we can take away from this is that there hasn’t been a
Leafs coach that has hit the ground running since Pat Quinn went 5-4-1 in 1998,
and marginally above .500 is the loosest possible definition of hitting the
ground running, but there certainly shouldn’t have been much of an expectation
here since this roster removed it’s star player after having the 5th
worst record in the league last year.

The fact that Babcock’s possession numbers are the best we’ve
seen since Paul Maurice are a good sign that we’ve already seen significant
improvement when it comes to the style of hockey the Leafs play, but obviously
there is now a tremendous need to address the lack of talent of the players
executing those systems. Ideally we’ll see the Leafs emulate the 2014-15
Hurricanes who managed to finish the year with a 52.4 CF% while drafting 6th
overall in the 2015 draft. A lot of that is attributed to poor goaltending,
which the Leafs currently have in spades.

Fun Fact: Mike Babcock’s first year as the Ducks Head Coach
he started 2-5-3, he went to the Cup Finals that year.

Less Fun Fact: Mike Babcock’s first year as the Detroit Red
Wings Head Coach he started 9-1-0 and won the President’s Trophy that year.
That was a pretty good team to begin with though, in my opinion.

Least Fun Fact: There are a lot of games left in this season.