Just hours after learning he’d been fired, former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was talking about his departure.
It all started with Maple Leafs chairman Larry Tanenbaum talking him into taking the job back in 2015, Babcock told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun on Wednesday. Had he not met Tanenbaum, Babcock says he “would have never gone” to Toronto. Babcock “had an absolute riot” as the Leafs’ head coach, meeting another “friend for life” in former general manager Lou Lamoriello in the process.
But the Leafs did not have much postseason success under Babcock despite back-to-back 100-plus point seasons. Toronto has been knocked out in the first round three years in a row, once by the Washington Capitals (2016-17) and twice by the Boston Bruins (2017-18, 2018-19).
Now, the Leafs are off to a mediocre 9-10-4 start to the 2019-20 season, and Babcock is out as head coach. After just over four seasons with the squad, the 56-year-old has mixed emotions about his departure.
“I thought we did an amazing job taking a franchise from where it was to where we had 100-point seasons, we set franchise records if I’m not mistaken, got into the playoffs,” Babcock said, per LeBrun. “I’m disappointed, we didn’t have the start to the year we wanted and that’s on me. I want to thank the fans, I want to thank the media, I want to thank the city, it was spectacular, I loved every second of it. And I wish the new group (coaches) nothing but success. Morgan Rielly has been here the whole time. I can’t thank him enough. And all the players I got an opportunity to coach. It’s been fantastic and I wish them nothing but success.”
Sheldon Keefe now takes over as the team’s head coach.