Latest on the Leafs and Jets – March 31, 2017

by | Mar 31, 2017 | Rumors | 26 comments

Hall of Famer Chris Chelios claims free agents don’t want to play for Leafs coach Mike Babcock.

The latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in your NHL rumor mill. 

SPORTSNET:  During a recent interview with Detroit station 97.1 The Ticket, NHL Hall of Famer and former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios stated his belief that veteran free agents don’t want to play for Toronto Maple Leafs coach (and former Wings bench boss) Mike Babcock. Chelios played for Babcock from 2005 to 2009 and apparently holds a grudge against his old coach, but he insists that no veteran free agent wants to play for him.

“It’s nothing personal, but he’s a tough guy to play for if you’re a veteran. If you’re a young guy, I think it’s great because of the accountability. If you don’t play [properly], you’re not going to play,” Chelios said. It’s worth noting that several notable unrestricted free agents, including Stephen Weiss, Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa and Brad Richards, joined the Wings during Babcock’s tenure. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much was made of Valtteri Filppula’s refusal to accept a trade from Tampa Bay to the Leafs at the trade deadline, with some observers leaping to the conclusion that he didn’t want to play for his former coach again. Filppula denied this, claiming the Leafs were among several clubs on his “no-trade” list that he submitted last summer and he didn’t want to change it. However, that hasn’t stopped some folks from suggesting Babcock’s presence could make it difficult for the Leafs to acquire veteran free-agent talent.

Babcock may be a demanding coach, but he’s also well-respected and has a proven record as a winner. With the Leafs stocked with rising young stars and showing significant improvement, I doubt Babcock’s presence will hurt their efforts to add some veteran free agents. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff must add “a bona fide No. 1 goalie with NHL experience.” He feels they cannot start next season with the current tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson and points out promising Eric Comrie needs another year of seasoning with the Jets’ AHL farm club. He suggests Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling as a free-option option worth pursuing but notes the Jets would have competition for his services this summer.  

The Jets could also try to re-sign defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has a year remaining on his contract and is a restricted free agent in 2018. However, Friesen expects Trouba will wait until the end of his current deal before deciding if he’ll re-sign to a long-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff stubbornly stuck with Ondrej Pavelec as his starter for years, so he could put his faith again in his current tandem of Hellebuyck and Hutchinson. However, I think he’ll acknowledge that his goaltending needs improvement and will shop around for a proven starter.

Darling would be a much more affordable option than someone like the LA Kings’ Ben Bishop. Cheveldayoff could also target the New York Rangers’ Antti Raanta or the Washington Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer via the trade market before the expansion draft in June.  


  1. In regards to the whole comment towards Babcock, I think Chelios is coming from his belief in having a sense of entitlement. He believes that because he paid his dues, and has played a long and rewarding career that he doesn’t need to be held accountable to the same degree as un-established players. I would disagree with that line of thinking, and believe as a coach you should hold everyone accountable, particularly the players who know better (like Chelios) when they take certain risks or make certain mistakes.

    • Bingo

    • Could be wrong, but I believe Chelios signed a new contract with Detroit while Babcock was coach.

    • Sidney Crosby has said numerous times that he loves playing for Babcock and if he were ever to leave the Penguins I think there would be a good chance he would want to sign to play for Babcock. As far as the Jets go how about MAF for Hutchinson and a second? If Palat is still under contract maybe we take him instead. We can offer him to Vegas for the draft and if he’s not taken he can mento Gustavson in WBS next year while Jarry slides into the backup role in Pittsburgh. That would be win/ win.

    • You didn’t hear Bob McKenzie give creedence to Chelios’ comments. In particular he named Zetterberg and Datsyuk – two very good and very professional players – who were extremely frustrated with Babcock.

      • All players will eventually become tired and frustrated with any coach, it’s the nature of the business. Babcock was in Detroit 10 years of course some got tired of the act. As for Chellios I’m sure it’s not the first or last time some one sticks a mike in front of him for him to trash a former teammate coach or union member. This is stretching for a story.

      • CHelios wanted to play till he was 50 and Babcock said no free ride in Detroit, all of a sudden CHelios hated Babcock. Bobby Mac also pointed out that Zetterburg and Datsyuk had great years and both resigned while complaining about Babs

    • Many players that played for Scott Bowman hated him too but they loved posing with the cup.

  2. I forgot to add in my previous comment that in regards to Valtteri Filppula not coming to Toronto he said quite clearly it wasn’t because of the coach, but because he feared of being buried in the minors or getting minimal playing time because of the youth movement, and unless the payout from Tampa Bay was going to be worth it, I’m glad he didn’t come anyway.

    • I would agree, it never surprised me that Filppula stopped a trade to the Leafs. He was being moved because he made too much to justify his roster spot with a team flush with young forward talent. So moving to a Canadian Team in a similar situation who have already buried guys in the minros, probably wasn’t enticing for a veteran.

      As for the comments, I don’t doubt that there is truth to it, in the sense that there are some veterans who wouldn’t come to the leafs because they don’t want to play for Babcock, but you can say that of any established coach in the league. So you either get a new up and coming coach, or you just acknowledge this to be the case when hiring a long tenured coach. I think the positive impact he has on younger players and his pedigree far outweigh this potential downside.

  3. The Filppula situation is insane at best. The whole thing is blown up way beyond what it should be. The guy clearly didn’t want to go to the Leafs because of the fear of being the next Laich, Greening or Michalek or worse Lupul. I can’t blame the guy, I would have done the same thing. The fact that he doesn’t outright say it shows that he has class and integrity as a player and person.

    As for Chelios and Babcock being hard to play for. Babs is detail oriented. He ensures that the little details of the game are followed properly and makes sure that people do it right. This is part of successful team systems. You see this present with many of the great coaches in the history of any sport. When Chelios was playing for Babs the guy was practically in the geriatric ward. Of course he didn’t gel with Babs. Babs made him work and pushed him further than the old man wanted to work.

    The media has blown this WAYYYYY out of proportion

  4. Everyone seems to miss the big picture. Fleury is the best choice for anyone needing a goalie. Why? The free agents wil require big money, long term committments. Fleury is only sa 2 year committment. That’s a big advantage. It gives teams like Winnipeg beathing psace to let younger replacements develop.

    • My 1st choice of goalies that should be available would be Grubauer. 25 years old, well seasoned as a back up, ready for a starters role & won’t cost any where near what MAF makes to resign.

    • I wrote this last week totally agree with you Obsio…MAF is a perfect fit in Winnipeg for a high scoring talented team like that that plays minimal defense.

  5. If you win the rest is rhetoric … I would say that Toronto as a hockey media mecca might be less appealing than any coach. To a player it is about ice time ,top six, and playing every day. Filppula might have been at risk with all of those with Toronto

  6. I wonder if the jets plan was to take two steps forward (next year)by taking a step back this year. They made the decision to put Pavelec in the minors and go with Hellebuyck and Hutchinson, they also wanted their players to play with skill and weren’t to concern about the players coming back into the d zone. The jets are 6th in the league in scoring, tied for 28th in goals against, 19th in pp and 28th in pk. Scoring isn’t the issue. The Jets have the highest payroll for defense in the NHL and their best dman (Trouba) is at a bargain price this and next season but remain to be seen if he is committal to Winnipeg. Now that their young guys got a year under them and with a healthy Myers back next season. This team need to take a big step forward. But that won’t happen until an established veteran goalie is brought in while Hellebuyck continue to develop and secondly and more importantly Paul Maurice need to change how he coaches. He allowed this team to develop individual skill without any accountability to playing in their own zone, which is evident by the goals against and pk. He need to now teach them about keeping pucks out of the next and making his players more accountable not only for playing in the dzone but also for the numerous undisciplined penalties they take. To often a dman gets caught up ice with no forward falling back to pick him up. Playing better in the dzone will help cut down on the grade a saves the goalies have to make but they still need to make the saves that should be stopped. Experience goalie, better system (coaching) and they’ll be a playoff team on a consistent bases.

    • Hellebuyck will be fine. If I’m Winnipeg I stay with him he’s just a kid thrown to the wolves. Injuries were a huge factor for Winnipeg, Trouba’s hold out, youth, undisciplined play & a lack of team D. Hopw well would any team fair losing their #2 Dman for essentially the entire season? Myers will have missed 71 games when the season ends.

      • True Striker, however the way they play the game need to change. They still had Trouba, Buff, Entrom and Morrisey. Lack of discipline and a goaltender who wasn’t ready to be a number one has done this team in. That falls on the coach and GM. Hellebuyck has not proven to be a number one and if they go with the same mindset next year they will find themselves in the same position. I believe you anointed Hellebuyck the number one last year, he isn’t mentally ready for the work load, as he said that was and is the biggest challenge for him. Teams needs a solid veteran to help him thru as he adjust.

      • Yes, he’s young but what ailed Winnipeg has less to do with Hellebuyck than the multitude of other issues. Even if Winnipeg had been able stay virtually healthy & Trouba hadn’t held out I didn’t have Winnipeg as a playoff team.

        To young, to undisciplined & a lack of team D gave them little hope out of the gate. Injuries were a factor specificly Myers, Little in game 1 & Trouba’s hold out. Myers 72 games, Trouba 22 games; 2 to suspension, Enstrom 22 games, Postma 13 games, Little 23 games, Laine 9 games, Perreault 17 games, Armia 25 games, etc..

        I’m not certain Winnipeg is a playoff team next year either but far to early to make firm decisions on next year. They will be better but still tough to crack the top 8. Who’s Winnipeg bumping out of the top 8 next year & Dallas & LA are right there to battle with Winnipeg for 1 of those 8 spots.

      • Winnipeg has issues other than goaltending, but it is definitely a big part of the issue.

        In the end, their biggest issue is team save percentage. They have a team save percentage of .9026, and the league average is .914. For Winnipeg that means giving up 206 goals against instead of 247, which gives them a positive 27 goal differential. There is no team in recent memory that has had that kind of differential and missed the playoffs.

        No matter how they accomplish it, they need to improve that statistic more than anything else, whether that is by putting a system and skaters in place that lower the quality of chances against the goaltender in order to help him develop, or simply find a way to get better goaltending, that number needs to go up.

  7. To me Winnipeg going after Darling or Grubaur is insanity.
    They need a starter not someone who ‘could be ready’ thats exactly what Helle was this year.

    If you are putting in a very young goalie then there better be a good veteran backing him up.
    Say for example Calgary goes after Darling/Gru but also sign Budaj as the back up.

    I like Fleury in Winnipeg (if fleury accepts) At least with him you know what you have.
    Cam Ward has one year left on his deal and Jimmy Howard has just two.
    All these guys have won stanley cups and come with a low risk factor. Gives the Jets time to assess is Helley is their future or its Comrie

    • Winnipeg needs a vet goalie to shoulder the load and allow Helle to develop at a sheltered pace. They do have issues other than goaltending – Team D is an atrocity, Injuries and under performing headlines them.

      Ideally the Jets would be going after Fleury or Bishop with sights of a short 1-3 year deal in the neighborhood of 5m. The Fleury trade would work best for them and he could be had for minimal cost. Perhaps a low prospect and a 3rd. Pens would be happy enough to just get his contract off the books. They have defense to sign (Schultz as RFA).

      Jets should make the move on Fleury and he could allow them to really make a push at the playoffs.

      As for Ward and Howard. Ward’s best days are behind him. He will resign with the Canes, take a pay cut and eventually transition into a backup role. The Canes will then have to get a young tendy to fill the role and eventually be the starter. They might have something in house for this but this appears to be a long game plan for them. If not then Raanta or Darling makes perfect sense for them. I would take Raanta over Darling though. Guy has upside written all over him. Grubauer is Vegas bound.

      Howard’s contract is the worst in hockey for goaltenders outside of the state of Texas. He’s not going anywhere

    • Taz both a decent goalies but back-ups..period

      MAF best choice for a team needing a goalie..

      • Isn’t MAF a back up today as well? How is that any different than Howard or Ward? All three were starters at one point or another.

  8. Chris Chelios has always had a lot to say! Just like Craig Button said, last year his comments were directed at Shanahan. Who cares?

    • Yes, but I wouldn’t believe a thing Button says. He’s a Maple Leaf apologist, and even worse than Cherry, if that’s possible!