The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone through perhaps their worst stretch of the season recently, allowing 28 goals in their last six games highlighted by a 6-2 loss to the last place Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. That has many fans worried about their upcoming playoff appearance that will likely be against the Boston Bruins, a team that has knocked them out two of the last three times they’ve made it to the postseason. Like with any team that struggles, questions about the future of the head coach have started to bubble up, and James Mirtle of The Athletic tried to answer them in his latest mailbag (subscription required).
Mirtle admits that there is something of a “disconnect” between Mike Babcock and GM Kyle Dubas, but wouldn’t go so far as to say that there is any real fire under the head coach’s seat. In fact, he believes that Babcock’s pedigree will keep him in Toronto through 2019-20 regardless of what happens this postseason. It is important to remember that Babcock still has four years remaining on his current contract, one that pays him an average of $6.25MM per season.
- If Babcock wants to find any success this postseason he’ll have to hope his ailing defense can come together soon, and he received some good news on that front today. Jake Gardiner was on the ice to skate before practice, the first time he’s done any extensive work since his injury nearly a month ago. Gardiner has dealt with back problems all year, but could potentially be back in time to suit up in the playoffs. Fellow injured defenseman Travis Dermott was also on the ice prior to practice, but then joined his teammates while wearing a non-contract sweater. Dermott is expected to be back before Gardiner, though the team is running out of regular season games to get them back up to speed.
- One thing that was considered when Gardiner and Dermott went down was whether or not to call up top prospect Rasmus Sandin. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted on the radio today that the team believed that he isn’t quite ready to compete at the NHL level despite his strong showing in the minor leagues. Sandin, who turned 19 just a few weeks ago, was Toronto’s first-round pick last June and has 24 points in 37 games in the AHL. The quick-thinking defenseman has improved his stock tremendously and could potentially be a candidate for NHL time next season.