TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs will look very different next year. That’s the promise from head coach Mike Babcock after the team somehow got eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the Washington Capitals in six games.
“This is obviously a pretty low moment in the history of this organization and, really, in the history of Canadian hockey,” Babcock said after his team was eliminated in Game 6, at home in overtime, to a perennial playoff doormat. “I honestly don’t know if I will be allowed to keep my job. But either way, I’m certain there will be a ton of new players in here next year. It’s time to knock it all down and start over.”
The Leafs had hoped their rookie core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman and Kasperi Kapanen would put the organization on the path to its first Stanley Cup since 1967. But that plan is obviously in tatters after losing to the Capitals.
“I don’t want to give up on all of these players individually,” said Babcock. “Maybe some of them can get over this and forge respectable careers in the NHL. Maybe. But as a group, I don’t see how you get past the humiliation of losing to the Washington Capitals in the postseason. There’s not coming back from that. You just have to realize it’s over and move on elsewhere.”
Toronto will likely unload most of its players before the draft in June.
“Hopefully we can get some mid-round picks for them, but who knows,” said Babcock. “How many teams are looking to add players incapable of beating the Capitals? Especially players who blew a series lead to them. We need to be realistic.”