Maple Leafs Fire Head Coach Mike Babcock

by | Nov 20, 2019 | News, NHL, Rumors | 40 comments

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock. They’ve promoted Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe as Babcock’s replacement.

Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock (Photo via

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised by this news. The Leafs were 9-10-4 this season. As more than one observer noted, they’ve hovered around .500 since January. That’s not what was expected when the Leafs entered this season as a projected Stanley Cup contender.

The Leafs hired Babcock in 2015, making him the highest-paid coach in the league. His contract runs through 2022-23, paying him $6.25 million annually. The deep-pocketed Leafs ownership can afford it, but that’s still a lot of money invested in a now unemployed coach.

Within two seasons, Babcock guided the Leafs to their first playoff appearance in four years and only their second since 2004. Under his tutelage, the Leafs enjoyed back-to-back seasons with 100-or-more points. However, they failed to advance past the opening round of the playoffs.

The Leafs seemed lackluster midway through 2018-19. That may have been an early warning sign that Babcock was losing the room. The malaise carried over into this season. For a team built around young scoring stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Babcock’s emphasis on two-way play appeared to stifle their offensive creativity.

Kyle Dubas inherited Babcock as coach when he took over as Leafs GM in 2018. There were rumors the two didn’t see eye-to-eye on personnel decisions. It was long assumed Dubas would eventually promote Keefe into the head-coaching position. 

It’ll be interesting to see what changes Keefe makes to get the Leafs back on a winning track. With Babcock gone, the focus now shifts to the players. If Keefe can’t get a better effort out of them, the next moves by Dubas could involve shaking up the roster, either during this season or next summer.


  1. It’s funny but is was more the Toronto media that said they were contenders! Most knowledgeable hockey analysts said that defence could never win a cup! The best is hearing all the leaf fans that were saying the cup is coming when they hired Babcock lol now they can’t get him out the door fast enough! Dubas to me is the guy that should be fired he never once signed or traded for anything they needed and and Babcock has to work with no grit, heart or defence

    • Look at what Trotz is doing with the Isles in the past 2 years…Babcock’s system did not adapt to his team’s strength, they had to adapt to him…

  2. When you have youngsters like Reilly, Matthews and Marner and bring in a high priced UFA like Tavares, you expect lots of wins. Like they say, it’s easier to fire one coach than 20 players.

  3. A couple of notes:

    1. Babcocks system focuses on movingvthr puck from d to forwards, passing, puck possession, balancing four lines, keeping them in tact, short shifts….like my uncle with the vcr with the time that is still blinking, he wouldn’t change it up making his system predictable and easy to counter.

    2. No concept of defensive pairings and a system that smothers defensemens potential. Just last night he got a softball question about why he still keeps Rielly and Ceci together. He said they’ve been “real good for us” all year….. this statement proves he has lost all ability to reason. Ceci is constantly out of position, always one step behind, and essentially a walking mistake. Rielly spends half his time out of breath trying to shore up Cecis blunders. How can he lead a rush when he has to worry about Ceci being back there. Total mismanagement of talent and potential. Ceci is a 5tg, 6th or 7th defenseman at best.

    3. Barrie was brought here to spark the offense. Babcock was holding him back. The guy has performance anxiety because of Babcock. Put him on the first power play line or for the full two minutes.

    4. To the players, they need to finish their checks, run a more effective cycle at both ends of the ice, play with passion and commit to defensive awareness.

    5. To Dubas, you created a salary cap mess overpaying soft players. If this doesn’t work, you’reikely out the door next.

    • That’s essentially what I said about Ceci consistently when he was with Ottawa – but when the trade happened it suddenly became “we (Toronto) got the better of the deal in getting rid of Zaitsev.” And Hainsy was just “too old” to bring back and Gardiner was a “giveaway artist.”

      Suddenly, in some areas of Leafland at least, they were a better team with Ceci, Barrie, Harpur and a couple of raw rookies, and that Dubas had “taught Dorion a lesson.”

      After 23 games this year they are 9 10 4 22 pts 73 81 -8

      After 23 games last season, with that “worse” D, they were 15 8 0 30 pts 78 62 +16

      The spotlight should be on Dubas – and, to some degree, Shanahan as well. They built the team with which Babcock was supposed to do better.

      • I wonder how they respond?

      • We’ll find out soon enough. I have to think Dubas had decided to fire Babcock even before the Vegas game. Nothing else makes sense.

        By that I mean, although they lost in Vegas, it included an empty-net goal, and it was a game they could have won – they played well enough – and at least should have gone to a SO-OT except for that mind-boggling save by Fleury.

        Had Dubas waited, I think they might have taken Arizona tonight and, who knows, the restoration of confidence could have put them back on an even keel for now.

        Now you have a situation where you know Arizona, who sit 7th overall and remain one of the stingiest in the entire league in terms of goals-against, will be extra-careful tonight knowing that teams almost always respond immediately – if not over the long haul – to such a shake-up.

    • Reilly had 72 pts last year, 21 on the PP. Seems like a pretty good PP guy to me, and a better player than Barrie. Of course he stayed on the 1st unit.
      None of us know what will happen going forward. I will predict a bump short term, 5-10 games, and then the same issues crop up. They can’t keep the puck out of their own net.
      We will see.

  4. THIS.IS.AWESOME.!!!!!! Watch Leafs take off now with that dinosaur done!

    • It was also AWESOME when they signed Babcock out of Detroit 5 years ago.

      • Lol I’m sure wendel was jumping for joy when they hired Babcock

      • No. A president should never hire the coach. Huge mistake from ouset. The gm hires his coach to deploy his vision which has finally happened

    • I don’t believe the Leafs will take off for a long period of time they might have a short boost for few games. Leafs do not have a better defense just because Mike was fired Leafs are not any tougher now that Babcock has been let go. Watching Tavares to me he looks like he has really slowed I believe his contract will be horrible for them inside three years. Their teenage GM and Shanny need to rebuild their defense and fast and pray there are know more injuries. Gooooood Luuuuucccckkkk.

  5. I dont really follow the Leafs that much but to me it sounds like he just lost the room. His coaching style wears on you, I have heard rumblings out of Detroit that a lot of the players there hated him. His style might work when you win but if you loose it gets old really fast. As the same time I really thought he would get more time. He and Dubas are both to blame, its a badly constructed squad and Babcock didnt get the most out of it.

    • There’s an old story that says a team has three groups of players – the guys that hate the coach, the guys that like him, and the guys that haven’t made up their minds;
      and a successful coach makes sure that the third group never gets near group #1.
      I just hope the spoiled brats on the Leafs grow up soon and play for each other, not just themselves.

      • Anyone who thinks Babcock had a bad day should consider this: on April 13, 1976 Ronald Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple to Jobs and Wozniak for $800.00.

        These days that 10% would be worth north of $58,065,210,000! That’s right – that’s BILLIONS!

        With what he’s owed by the Leafs NOT to coach he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. Kyle Dubas (Simon- the land of chalk drawings), what a poor example of a leader. I’m a die hard habs fan, it’s nice to watch the Leafs self destruction. This is supposed to be their year. Spend more money Kyle , oh that’s right, you can’t. Go Simon go!!!

  7. I believe this is totally on Dubas and the players.
    Too much money spent for no productivity.

    • Just watch this team charge now and you will see the problem is not roster construction but almost entirely terrible unadaptable coaching to a cookie cutter style that is outdated and is totally contradictory to the personnel at his disposal.

      • Lol new coach can’t fix grit,heart and terrible dmen

      • Uhm. Yes it can. Just watch. And it’s not so much the new coach fixing it . It’s the removal of the causation problem (BABCOCK) that is 90% of the fix. This is a monumental move for the franchise.

      • I think this is a uh-oh the team I put together really isn’t that good……I better by some time by firing the coach! This change isn’t going to make a huge difference

    • Agreed, absolutely “no heart”.

  8. Babcock got them through the first phase , now on to the next phase.

    • Lol

  9. Just a quick bit of advice for Keefe; if you’re playing back to back games (and apparently it’s against the law to play the #1 goalie two nights in a row), play the #1 goalie against the better team, your backup goalie against the lesser team. Some coaches seemed so pissed at the GM for not getting them a decent backup, that they tried to prove something, which didn’t work, and cost them their job.

  10. They aren’t good enough and nothing is going to change this year. A “contract” will have to go at some point to create some space to balance this roster and Nylander is the only one of the group that can easily be traded.

    • Easily traded but not a great return 7 million and one of the most one dimensional players in the league

      • Again. Just watch. Egomaniac Babcock was killing his confidence. He will be far better with that clown off the bench that plays hyman more than Matthew’s and gauthier at any time let alone when down in final 20 minutes

      • Ya when he misses his check and the other team makes it a 2 goal lead

      • BBB, you need to watch Nylander more closely these days. He’s starting to get the idea. And, yes, it’s about time.

      • I have compared to last year he is getting his offensive mojo back, but still misses his checks ALOT!

    • Keep in mind… compare William to the following:
      — Sean Monahan: seven years, $44.625 million, $6.375-million cap hit
      — Nathan MacKinnon: seven years, $44.1 million, $6.3-million cap hit
      — Mark Scheifele: eight years, $49 million, $6.125-million cap hit
      — Dylan Larkin: five years, $30.5 million, $6.1-million cap hit
      — Nikolaj Ehlers: seven years, $42 million, $6-million cap hit
      — Filip Forsberg: six years, $36 million, $6-million cap hit
      — Jonathan Huberdeau: six years, $35.4 million, $5.9-million cap hit
      — Jonathan Drouin: six years, $33 million, $5.5-million cap hit
      ————I would place W.N. near or at the bottom of this list

  11. Seattle just got a big, pre-expansion draft gift from the Leasts.

  12. It is increasingly apparent that “old school” methods have a real short shelf life with the “new age” nhl player. Players are no longer motivated or respond to “tough love” approaches. (Hitchcock, Babcock, … all)

  13. Dubas didn’t have a choice and Babcock wasn’t his hire. Nowhere for Dubas to hide now. You’ll know soon enough if it was the coach or the way the team was constructed bu Dubas.

    • Is Dubas really the right man for that job?

      It appears that he didn’t even have the courage to fire the coach.

      Shanny had to fly in and do it himself.

      Then he had to answer to the 2 beat reporters covering hockey in AZ.

      I think they’re Cowards.

      • Babcock’s winning % since becoming the coach is .554. You have to go back to Pat Quinn’s .591 from 1998 to 2006 to find one better. And he, to, was fired. In fact, some 5 head coaches have been canned in Toronto since 2000, including Paul Maurice who, from 2006 to 2008, posted a .530 %.

        A large part of the problem in TO is the prevailing attitude that, somehow, being the richest franchise in the league, and having all the main national media in Canada centered there, should automatically result in being, not simply good, but the best.

        Doesn’t work that way, and that attitude is what has put a large target on the back of the franchise for ridicule and therefor undue pressure on both players and coaches.

  14. I hope NYR get rid of Ruff and hire Babcock instead.

  15. I think the irony in all of it, is that they fire Babcock as they head to Arizona….home of their “star” player, Austin Matthews. Seems Babs had difficulty with their “star” and as they head to Matthews home, maybe he got his wish….a coach that will give him more icetime and opportunity?