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Volume 26 No. 231
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Babcock's Firing Signals True Start Of Kyle Dubas Era For Maple Leafs

The spotlight is now fully on Dubas with the Maple Leafs hoping to rebound from their sub-.500 start
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The spotlight is now fully on Dubas with the Maple Leafs hoping to rebound from their sub-.500 start
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The spotlight is now fully on Dubas with the Maple Leafs hoping to rebound from their sub-.500 start
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas "came out of the shadows" and fired coach Mike Babcock, putting his "reputation and job on the line," according to Michael Traikos of the TORONTO SUN. This is now "officially" Dubas' team. However, it is also his' "fingerprints on the mess," as the team sits under the .500 mark following three consecutive postseason appearances (TORONTO SUN, 11/21). In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes, "The spotlight is now truly Dubas's." With Babcock's dismissal yesterday following the team's sixth straight loss, Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan "essentially made it clear that he's willing to believe in Dubas's vision of the team -- or at least Dubas's vision needs a fairer shake from a coach who's also a believer" (TORONTO STAR, 11/21).

ON THE SAME PAGE: THE ATHLETIC's Jonas Siegel wrote firing Babcock is a "bold move from Dubas," the first time he has fired a coach in the NHL. Babcock's replacement, AHL Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, was Dubas’ "choice to take over" the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when Dubas was GM there. Dubas in '18 then "brought Keefe in to coach the Marlies," and now has "hired him to revitalize the Leafs." Keefe has "always seemed like a safety net for Dubas if and when things didn’t work out with Babcock." Whereas Dubas and Keefe "appeared to be on the same page," Dubas and Babcock "were not" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/20). NHL Network’s Elliotte Friedman noted it was clear Babcock and Dubas “did not have the same vision for the future” of the Maple Leafs. That is "not going to be a problem" for Dubas and Keefe (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 11/20). SPORTSNET.ca's Chris Johnston wrote now that Dubas has hired Keefe three times, there will be "no question about whether the coach and GM share the same philosophy." That was "always an undercurrent with Babcock -- who was hand picked by Shanahan to lay a foundation for the laughably bad Leafs" in '15, but whom Dubas "inherited when he was elevated from the assistant GM post" in May '18 (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/20).

FACING THE MUSIC: In Toronto, Rosie DiManno notes the Babcock announcement "came from Shanahan," not Dubas, to spare a "little bit of the media heat." Shanahan said, "I just felt it was something that needed to be done, and Kyle felt the same way. Seeing as I was the one who hired Mike, I thought it was very important for me to get on a plane this morning and face Mike ... to tell him myself" (TORONTO STAR, 11/21). Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons writes it "seemed clear that Shanahan approached Dubas about firing Babcock before the opposite occurred" (TORONTO SUN, 11/21).

WITHOUT A PADDLE? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted the firing of Babcock less than five full seasons into his eight-year deal signals the Maple Leafs are "still mired in cluelessness when it comes to producing a winner." This "represents an organizational failure of epic proportions on everyone's part," from Shanahan to Dubas to the players. Campbell: "We'll see how well Dubas and Shanahan deal with seats that are growing increasingly ever warm. Because they are the ones who are most responsible for supplying Babcock with the players with whom he has worked" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/20). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes the Maple Leafs' five-year experiment at "cooling the media temperature around the team is over." Missteps that had been "overlooked until now will be taken as signs of impending doom." Kelly: "All appeals for patience and calm will be met with hysteria" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/21).