For his own sake, we can only hope that Mike Babcock has been staying offline and keeping his eyes away from newspapers since he was fired on Wednesday. In fact, the best place for the former head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs right now may be in some remote cabin that’s off-the-grid.
In the days since his ousting and the hiring of Sheldon Keefe to fill the void, it seems like everyone has been eager to drag Babcock’s name through the mud. Former NHL defenceman Mike Commodore — who was coached by Babcock in Detroit — went on quite the Twitter tirade when the news became official on Wednesday. Then, Mark Fraser did the same while defending Commodore on Saturday.
Think what you’d like about those two individuals, but the latest story to come out about Babcock’s divisive decision-making during his second year at the Maple Leafs’ helm is something else.
This alleged tale, initially reported by Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, took place during the 2016-17 season and involved a young Mitch Marner — who was a high-profile rookie on the team at the time — according to Ian Tulloch of The Athletic and The Leafs Nation.
Babcock allegedly asked Marner in January of 2017 to list his teammates from “hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookies, didn’t have a strong work ethic,” wrote Koshan about the incident. Per Tulloch, Babcock was frustrated with Marner “for his perceived laziness in the first half of his rookie season.”
Wanting to appease his boss, Marner did what he was told. He constructed his list and put himself at the bottom. He knew that he had to work harder without the puck.
This is where the story should have ended, but Babcock wasn’t done with the rankings his future star put together for him. In what can only be perceived as an attempt to light a fire under a few of the team’s veterans, Babcock shared the list with some of the individuals that Marner placed just above himself.
According to Tulloch, two of those players were Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri — both of whom are no longer with the Maple Leafs.
Babcock revealing what Marner believed was confidential information left him in tears, per Tulloch. His teammates were furious, but not with Marner. They couldn’t fathom the fact Babcock put a well-liked 19-year-old through that.
Their head coach had swiftly transformed Mitch Marner into Snitch Marner.
(But in all seriousness, yikes).
Tulloch also reported that this wasn’t the first time a situation like this had been orchestrated by Babcock. While the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings he allegedly asked a young forward similar questions about his teammates before sharing the answers with the rest of the team.
Stories throwing shade at an outgoing coach seem to become the norm when a team decides to move on, but the specifics of these alleged encounters really cast a questionable light on the methods used by one of the biggest names in hockey.
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