It's not every day that I thank a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team, and a city with literally nothing to like about. Well, guess what? Today that changes. Today I am going to stand atop a mountain, and give thanks to one of the most insufferable organizations the NHL has had to have over the past few years.
Here's the quick rundown (most of you already know, but whatever shut up):
After another upsetting early playoff exit at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the general manager Ken Holland had quite a bit of work to do. Head coach Mike Babcock was a free agent, and one of the most highly-praised coaches in the hockey world. After a strenuous period of negotiations, Babcock decided to leave the Red Wings after 10 years to take on a new challenge in Toronto. A challenge is just what he got:
Babcock asked if challenge in Toronto is as big as he thought it would be. His answer? "Bigger."— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 2, 2015
Well no shit, Sherlock.
The Leafs are bad. Everyone knows it, even their fans. I will give them this - Since Brendan Shanahan came along, and they swore to a "scorched earth" approach where they build from the ground up, they've been making sensible moves. They have a great crop of prospects who will be very possible NHL stars some day. The point of this post isn't to harp on the Leafs, or their fans for being bad. The point is to thank them. Thank them for offering Mike Babcock that monster contract that he could not say no to, thank them for launching the "tie goes to the veteran" mantra into the sun, thank them for bringing a new more exciting era to Hockeytown, and last but not least - Thank them for taking that egotistical coach into a market where everyone is focused on how god damn good the Blue Jays are. That's right, Mike.. You're not in the spotlight!
That's right, I am thanking the Maple Leafs organization for taking Mike Babcock, so that Jeff Blashill could get his highly-deserved promotion to the NHL. Since Mike Babcock left Detroit, the Red Wings were able to make a few critical moves that they were unable to do under his regime:
- Sign a top right-shooting defenseman in Mike Green, and a solid veteran center like Brad Richards.
- Have an impressive, and exciting showing by rookies in preseason.
- Have a 19-year-old top prospect in the opening night lineup, playing top six minutes.
The last one is a big one. Dylan Larkin tore it up in the NCAA last year, and up until Babcock left, it looked like he was going to return for his sophomore season with the University of Michigan. When it was announce that Babcock would be leaving the Red Wings for the Maple Leafs on May 20th, it took only one day for the rookie to sign his three-year entry-level contract. Coincidence? Maybe. But hell, coincidences aren't any fun. I'm gonna go ahead and believe that Larkin was sitting on Twitter, drinking a coffee, saw that Babcock was leaving, then made Ken Holland's hotline bling. Fast forward to continued success in the World Championships, AHL, NHL preseason, and the exciting rookie is the first teenager to make the Red Wings roster in over 15 years. Thank you, Toronto. If Babcock were here still, we wouldn't be able to celebrate this wonderful day.
Last but not least, and this is determined by my observation at training camp, and exhibition - The team is happier. There's more fun going on, players are smiling, and enjoying what they do. It's no secret that there was a lot of tension and unhappiness under Babcock's tenure in Detroit. Players like Tomas Jurco played plug minutes, Dan Cleary was apparently superman, and let's not forget Tomas Tatar getting benched. Not to mention the complete ruination of defensemen like Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith (that's just personal opinion, by the way. Don't yell at me.)
Even with injuries to players like Danny DeKeyser, and Pavel Datsyuk, I'm excited for this season. More excited than I have been in quite some time. Why? Because things are different. Prospects are knocking on the door for NHL minutes, and we finally have a coach who knows/cares that they exist. No more tie goes to the veteran hogwash, more putting the best team possible out there.
So with that, I want to thank the Maple Leafs. Thanks for taking Babcock and paying him a stupid amount of money to coach a rebuilding team. Thanks for bringing Babcock into a city where people care more about their red-hot baseball team, and no one gives a shit about hockey for the time being. This is beautiful. You are beautiful. I hope the Blue Jays go to the World Series.
How can I close out this article? It's escaping me... Wait a minute:
Babcock seemed a bit confused to see Shanahan on ice with players... didn't want to answer a question about it— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 5, 2015
*sips on tea* 8 years $50 million. Enjoy the paycheck, Babs.