Reports circulated Sunday about a very uncomfortable situation between Toronto Maple Leafs former head coach Mike Babcock and Mitch Marner back in his rookie season. Today Marner confirmed that the “list incident” where Babcock asked him to rank his teammates from hardest working to those with the least work ethic, which he then shared with the players, is in fact true.
Marner spoke with TSN after a light skate on Monday, still rehabbing a high-ankle sprain, and said that having the support of his teammates throughout that 2016-2017 season made all the difference.
“I was lucky enough that the guys that were there with me, none of them took it to heart and they knew it wasn't up to me to make the list.” Marner said to TSN’s Kristen Shilton. “That was a lucky situation. But it's over with now; it's out of my head.”
Marner didn’t confirm on Monday, but it was reported by Ian Tulloch of The Athletic and The Leafs Nation that the rookie put his own name at the bottom of the list. Above it were reportedly Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, both tenured veterans with Toronto at the time.
The team was understandably irate at the time, not at young Marner, but at the head coach.
On Monday, Babcock added perspective to his methods though a text message exchange with Elliotte Friedman, saying that the idea backfired and he had apologized at the time.
I reached out to Mike Babcock today about the Mitch Marner story, as reported by @koshtorontosun. Via text, he replied, “I was trying to focus on work ethic with Mitch — focusing on role models — ended up not being a good idea. I apologized at (the) time.”— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 25, 2019
Connecting to role models and building positive relationships is a great game plan for a rookie NHL’er, sure. However, one would imagine it would be a much tougher task when your head coach exposes your private perspective of their work ethic and effort level a few months into your time as teammates.
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