After what would have to be considered a relatively successful campaign during the 2017-2018 National Hockey League regular season for the Toronto Maple Leafs it was surprising to see that one of the major talking points at the end of the season where of dysfunction in the locker room. Even more surprising was the fact that the two men reportedly involved in this were arguably the organizations top star in Auston Matthews and Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach Mike Babcock.
Credit to the Maple Leafs that they had managed to keep the situation under wraps prior to the end of the season, but it wasn't long before the hockey media in Toronto caught on to what was going on behind the scenes. When reports began to surface suggesting that Babcock had gone to Arizona to visit with Matthews and his family face to face it became readily apparent that the rumors of an issue between the two men was more than just a rumor. Babcock himself would later acknowledge in interviews that he had in fact gone to Arizona to visit his young star, although as you would expect any talk of a rift between him and Matthews was immediately downplayed.
Now however it sounds like not only was there in fact some sort of rift between the two men, but that there may still be one in spite of the efforts made by Babcock during the offseason to smooth things over. During a recent radio interview on WGR 550 sports Sportsnet insider John Shannon made some extremely surprising comments when he revealed that his sources have informed the meeting did not go according to plan.
"Mike Babcock and Auston Matthews had their meeting in Arizona about the direction of the team moving forward," said Shannon as per WGR 550. "I keep hearing the meeting didn't go very well from a Babcock perspective."
That certainly will not sound good to your ears if you are at all invested in the success of the Toronto Maple Leafs. You also have to wonder just what might be the issue between Matthews and Babcock if even a trip to Arizona and a face to face was unable to improve the situation. The concern becomes even further amplified when you consider the fact that both of these men are expected to be with this organization for the long term.
While yes it's true that newly appointed general manager Kyle Dubas did not hire Mike Babcock himself, you have to imagine that there is no way Brendan Shanahan would allow Babcock to be fired after he gave him the largest contract for a coach in the history of the NHL. The Leafs likely also expect that Matthews will be part of their organization for a very long time. He has one more year left on his current contract and the Leafs will likely try to sign him to a max extension of 8 years at some point over the course of the summer.
These are two of the last people that you want at odds with one another in the organization, both are viewed as cornerstones of the current iteration of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That said though the fact that they are so vital to the team in their own respects could mean that these two butting heads will eventually force a decision that no Leaf fans wants to see.
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