Blake’s Takes: Bye-Bye Babcock

The past week provided no shortage of NHL news. Mike Babcock was fired by the Maple Leafs who immediately look like a new team. We saw an All-Star caliber player make his return to his former team and a sweet alternate jersey was released. Keep reading to learn more!

1. Babcock Out in Toronto

[Photo Credit: NHL]
Last week, I mentioned that Mike Babcock might be on the hot seat in Toronto. He couldn’t even make it to Thursday before he was fired by the Maple Leafs. The message was delivered by GM Kyle Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan. The Leafs started the season 9-10-4 and were riding a five-game losing streak. Babcock finished 173-133-45 with Toronto.

This move is a product of being the Head Coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs. When the seat is hot, it’s scorching in Toronto. I’m not saying I would have fired Babcock if I was Dubas or Shanahan, but changes definitely needed to be made. The Maple Leafs have all the talent in the world with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Morgan Reilly, and Mitch Marner. They’ve sacrificed a lot to keep that core together, including letting Patrick Marleau go in the offseason.

Babcock took over the Leafs back in 2015 after leaving the Red Wings. The team had far less talent then. After his first year in Toronto, the Leafs have been bounced in the playoffs each year since. That just isn’t acceptable now, not with their level of talent. For that reason, I understand that the Leafs needed to make a change, and that starts with the coach.

It doesn’t help that Babcock is known to be difficult to work with. Many players have complained over the years that they weren’t treated right and playing under Babcock is less than enjoyable. Just ask Mike Commodore. For that reason, firing him was probably a bit easier. Going forward, Sheldon Keefe will be the man behind the bench for the Leafs. So far, he’s 2-0-0 with the team and Toronto has looked much better. Toronto’s brass will look very smart if they can make a run at the Cup after firing Babcock midseason. It worked for the Blues last year.

2. Barrie’s Return to Colorado

Speaking of the Maple Leafs. Current Leaf and former Av, Tyson Barrie, made his return to Denver last Saturday. Barrie spent the first eight years of his career in Colorado and scored 307 points before he was traded to Toronto in the offseason.

Barrie’s return was extra sweet for him as he picked up a goal, an assist, and his team picked up the win. Every player loves to play well in their first game against their former team. Barrie did so on Saturday. Both the Leafs and Avalanche have Stanley Cup aspirations. So, maybe Barrie will end up playing his old team for all the marbles.

3. Bobby Ryan Leaves the Senators

Earlier last week, the Ottawa Senators announced that forward Bobby Ryan would be taking an indefinite leave of absence to enter the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. The team did not comment as to why Ryan was entering the program. The purpose of the program is to aid players suffering a myriad of issues including mental health, substance abuse, among other things.

The reason for Ryan’s entry into the program has not been released. However, Ryan’s history of family issues has been public for some time now, and many assume his entry into the program has something to do with those issues. I won’t attempt to outline them, but I will direct you all to a story where you can learn more.

Regardless as to why Ryan entered the program, I feel this is an important time to remind everyone that NHL players are human and suffer from real human issues and emotions. The amount of money they make cannot fix many of those issues and heal those wounds. Obviously, Ryan’s play on the ice isn’t what Ottawa hoped it would be after they signed him to a large contract. Still, it’s clear he is struggling with something and everyone should be empathetic to that.

4. Bortuzzo Suspended

On Saturday night, Robert Bortuzzo unleashed two nasty cross-checks to the back of Predators’ forward Victor Arvidsson. The league announced that Bortuzzo will be suspended four games for the hits. Arvidsson suffered lower-body injuries as a result and will be injured for 4-6 weeks.

Both hits were bush-league from Bortuzzo. I know Arvidsson was in the crease, and that usually results in some sort of hit. But, Bortuzzo went overboard and leveled Arvidsson from behind. The second hit was even worse. You can see Bortuzzo complain after the first hit. With Arvidsson still down, he hit him again. Both of these hits were dirty as can be. I like Bortuzzo but he is very deserving of the suspension.

5. Bruins Reveal Third Jersey

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The Bruins were a bit late to the party and just revealed their alternative jerseys. The jerseys were inspired by the jerseys the Bruins wore back in the 1940s and 1950s.

These sweaters are hot fire. They are definitely one of the coolest alternate jerseys I’ve seen in a while. First, black is awesome. I love it when the Bruins wear black. The yellow ‘B’ on the front of the jerseys really pops over the black too. There is zero chance the Bruins lose a game while wearing these jerseys. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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