The behind the scenes of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization has quickly turned into one of the hottest topics in the National Hockey League, this despite the fact that we still have four teams competing for the Stanley Cup Championship. That being said though Toronto is arguably the most crazed hockey market on the planet so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that every little detail has been slowly leaking out to the public after a disappointing first round playoff exit for that very same market.
One of the big topics of the offseason so far has been the rumors of a potential conflict between the organizations top star in center Auston Matthews, and Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. Those rumors all began when reports surfaced that the Maple Leafs' bench boss was making a trip down to Arizona, where Matthews currently resides, in an effort to iron things out with his star pupil. By all accounts the meeting was a productive one but when TSN insider Darren Dreger had a chance to ask Mike Babcock about the move as well as the public perception around it, he did just that.
"You met with Auston Matthews recently in Arizona as well is that important for you to get in, to their home environment, and have that face to face?" asked Dreger.
Surprisingly Mike Babcock revealed that the real reason he was going down to Arizona for a face to face meeting with Matthews wasn't because the situation was particularly dire, but instead due to the intense media scrutiny that exists around both players and coaches who represent the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
"Well you know what's interesting is, you know we were disappointed with the way the season ended, and without media involvement I might of went for a beer with Auston or I might have had coffee with him but I might not have gone to his house, which ended up being a home run."
It was a curious quote from Babcock and Dreger followed up on it as a result.
"What's the difference in terms of the media involvement? you say you would have met Auston for a beer why does it make it different? Was it because you felt the speculation of a rift?" asked Dreger.
"Yes that and as much as he is a man he's 20... That's the reality. You get to see where the guy lives... you get some nice interaction in an environment where they are real comfortable," responded Babcock.
It's not like Auston Matthews is getting some kind of special treatment either, Babcock also went to the home of Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen during his visit over at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championship tournament. This sounds more like a coach trying to get to know his players on a deeply personal level than a coach trying to repair any damage he may have caused during a season behind the bench, although if the latter where the case I don't think Babcock would be openly discussing it.
Babcock though says his visits were a home run, so that will either reassure you as a Leafs' fan if you're buying what the coach is selling, or it won't if you don't.
Photo Credit: TSN