Despite the pitchfork and torches after the Maple Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs by the hand of the Boston Bruins for the third time in the last four playoff outings, there were some moments of self-reflection and other moments of pointing fingers going on during the final press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The latter was mainly coming from the side of the sole scapegoat for many fans, head coach Mike Babcock. When it comes to laying it on anything but himself, he appeared to be the master at the final press conference before the offseason.
Babcock: "We need more" he says of the roster and the need for more depth.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 25, 2019
At the end of what could be a forgettable season for some, to come out and verbally lay the blame on not himself, but Dubas and the other members of the front office is really something.
Earlier this season in March, there were rumblings of Dubas and Babcock taking shots at each other a little more publicly than we’re used to. That has been intensely highlighted with how the Leafs were able to perform in the last couple of weeks and late into the regular season.
From what the fan or even some paid analysts of this league see, the Leafs were supposed to make a deep run and had a strong team no matter what other people were saying. Built with a gameplay in mind and the support needed in every position to try and win at least a single playoff series.
There is no way that anyone could lay the blame on management and their lack of trying. Just a month before this season’s trade deadline, they acquired Jake Muzzin for a fairly inexpensive price and he instantly made their group of six defencemen much better in the long run, when completely healthy.
All-season long, Babcock utilized that forward depth to have goals scored throughout the lineup. It was one of their strengths heading into the post-season, but for some reason that was not enough.
Even though in the dying moments of the Leafs’ final game, Babcock refused to abandon his philosophy of rolling four lines and continued to play through that depth. While his star players sat there and played minimal minutes in their season finale, the sheer gall to not change anything when your past year’s work is on the line, is appalling.
For someone that complains about lack of depth, he sure loved to hang onto it and squeeze every single drop of those bottom-six forwards that were left.
Again, not putting the criticism on himself, but laying it off to Dubas and meanwhile using the exact part of the team that this management group was able to have a strong role in putting together, is confusing.
Already in the 48 hours since the final whistle of the Leafs’ season, the narrative of Babcock not playing his best players in the live-or-die moments has been exhausting. It definitely happened, but it has already been discussed at length so that even the most casual of supporters know what everyone thinks Babcock should have done.
The head coach is not going down without a fight and others to blame, while the general manager of this club is out here putting everything on himself for building this team.
Dubas: "I know that I have to do a better job."
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 25, 2019
Because of mainly the cap situation, this team might have a drastic makeover on the bottom-half. The core players will remain — no matter what anyone realistically says — and they will most likely have some new support members.
Dubas did what he could this season, but he does admit to some mistakes. Most noticeably the whole Nylander saga to start the season and his resulting performance.
The one thing both Babcock and Dubas can agree on, Nylander did not have a terrific season no matter how you look at it. But Dubas has put that on the length of the negotiations and the player not starting on the right foot mid-season, while Babcock just simply stated that he needs to get better.
Throughout the last press conference, Babcock was dancing around specific questions of on-ice difficulties throughout the series. Not holding himself accountable, it’s not the greatest message you want to end your season with.
No matter what, there will be some heavy evaluation because of the poor results. Whether it be player or management personnel, there might be some movement around from both sides.
Kyle Dubas said he wouldn’t give any guarantee about anyone’s status (Babcock, Kadri, etc) within the organization, himself included. Said Shanahan will evaluate him first, and then further evaluations will be made.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 25, 2019