Mike Babcock is known for being a stubborn coach. We as fans of the Leafs have been infuriated in the past when he has given ice time to guys like Roman Polak or Leo Komarov over younger roster players.
This season will likely be better for that since there is less dead-wood in the team, but we could still see a few players getting more ice time than we would like.
Here is our list of potential Babcock toys for the season ahead:
Fourth Line center
Yes! The first player is not even a player but a position. You could probably just call this the fourth line in general, but the center position will be the most annoying since the Leafs boast arguably the most talented group of centers in Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Nazem Kadri.
Imagine this, we are losing 3-2 in the third period against Tampa Bay and Babs throws out the fourth line for some grit. It has happened before and it could happen again.
Fans have argued that the Leafs could roll with three lines instead of four, but the likelihood is that Babs ices a fourth line and plays them a tad too much.
Could he be the new Roman Polak? Last season Hainsey played a scary amount of time with an averaged of nearly 22 minutes per game.
Yes, he is a pretty good penalty killer. But giving him top four minutes is not good for the team since he is in his last 30s and is a rather limited player now.
Hainsey can most certainly have a strong role on the team, but giving him lots of minutes is not good for anyone – especially since the Leafs have other options that are better than him at even strength.
One thing that became evident last season was that Hainsey burned out. Babs overused him early in the season and when the playoffs came he was all out of fuel.
To avoid that burnout this time around, Babs should limit Hainsey to a bottom pairing penalty killing role.
Last season McElhinney was uncharacteristically awesome. As a waiver pick up from Columbus a couple of seasons ago, McElhinney has been superb.
Remember that save against Crosby in 2016/17 that earned us our playoff spot? Yeah me too. And as impressive as McElhinney has been, maybe it is time that the Leafs gave a chance to Garret Sparks?
Sparks has been superb in the minors and has earned his right to a place on the main roster. It would be a crying shame if the Buds were to lose Sparks to another team just to accommodate an aging McElhinney.
This might sound a bit cut-throat, but the team would be best served giving the younger guy a chance this coming season and solidifying their goaltending for years to come with Freddie and Sparks.
McElhinney is a harsh one to include on this list, but Sparks should be given a shot as back up – to do that, the club will have to be ruthless with McElhinney.