Monday brought with it a roster shuffle and a new set of defenses pairs in practice for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After five goals and seven points in his last three games with the Toronto Marlies (16 in 15 GP on the season), Pierre Engvall has been recalled and will join the team later in the day, with Trevor Moore moved onto LTIR. That means Moore will be out at a minimum of 10 games with the shoulder injury he sustained on an open-ice hit vs. Boston.
We’ll get a better sense tomorrow as to whether they see Engvall as a center option in lieu of Jason Spezza down the middle, or if they’re planning to slot him in on the third or fourth left wing once he enters the lineup. The element of size and speed Engvall brings could be a much-needed shot in the arm for the Leafs‘ bottom six, which has lost both Trevor Moore and Alex Kerfoot this week to injury, but expectations obviously need to be kept in check here.
There has also been a shakeup of the defense pairs in practice, with Justin Holl joining Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin joining Cody Ceci, and Travis Dermott skating with Tyson Barrie. That’s a total revamp across all three pairings without a clear matchup pair in the mix, but it would be reaching the point of insanity to repeat the same combinations we’ve seen from an underperforming Leafs blue line over the first 22 games. Of course, whether these are the pairings we see tomorrow at game time in Vegas is a wait-and-see.
D pairing tweaks today in Vegas
— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) November 18, 2019
McKenzie: Things are getting interesting in Toronto (TSN 690)
On TSN 690 in Montreal, Bob McKenzie discussed Mike Babcock’s level of job security at this time after the Leafs‘ fifth straight loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
I don’t believe for a moment that the Toronto Maple Leafs are eager to fire Mike Babcock or that it is their primary consideration. But no coach can survive multiple games as bad as the Leafs’ on Saturday night. No coach in the world. I don’t care who you are. That is not going to cut it.
They are in Vegas on Tuesday night, Arizona on Thursday night, and Colorado on Saturday night. I’ll be very interested to see what the response is. In very practical terms, if you’re thinking of making a coaching change, a lot of times, you don’t do it in the middle of a western swing like that.
What can the Leafs do to get out of their funk? (Sportsnet 590)
Chris Johnston weighed in on the Mike Babcock debate on Sportsnet 590.
I’ve never had one player really complain about him, to be honest. I think everyone knows what Mike Babcock is at this point. He is hard on people and demands a high standard. He’s now in his fifth season with this group, so some of these guys have heard the message for a long period of time.
I don’t have a great barometer on it. I’d only be guessing. I see what other people see — sometimes the long faces on the bench and this and that, but I don’t know that it is any worse than any other coach-player relationship.
I think the bigger question is: Does he still have the ability to get something out of the group? I think the big reason why the coaching decision hasn’t come down yet is that the management wants to see more. They want to see if he can get it back. We are talking about one of the most accomplished coaches in NHL history, a guy who has won a ton of games and a lot of games in Toronto, and turned this franchise around quicker than they even thought was possible at that time. I don’t think they’re as quick as some of the fans and the media is to shuffle him out the door because you have to be sure you have a better option behind him.
He takes up a lot of oxygen. I think he is the perfect coach for a market like Toronto. The way he deals with the media — he is honestly the best coach I’ve ever covered on a daily basis just from a strict media-coach relationship standpoint. He is fair. He doesn’t get angry about what is written or said. He just lets it all be and understands it’s a chaotic market.
I’m personally not of the opinion that it’s time to get rid of him. I don’t know if the players love him, but as I say, I don’t know that the players love the coach in too many markets.
Has Babcock lost the pulse of these Leafs? (Sportsnet 590)
On The Leafs Hour, Justin Bourne gave his thoughts on whether it’s a systems issue with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mike Babcock.
I always want to say to those people, “What do you mean?” What do you mean when you say “it’s the system” and what is wrong with the system that you’re seeing?
Here is where I am: It hasn’t been Babcock. It hasn’t been the system. They have been injured and they have been new and they need to be patient — all of that stuff that people are so sick of hearing, particularly in the wake of a weekend like that. I am now at the point, and I believe Dubas and the rest of them would be, where [Saturday] was enough for me. That’s enough. That doesn’t mean that you just go and fire Babcock; that means it goes from, “Let’s just ride this out,” to I’ve changed my mindset a little bit. Babs, now, we need to watch him because it looked like the team didn’t care and wasn’t motivated.
I don’t think it’s the systems. I do think it is mostly players and effort and all of those things, but that is also coaching, to some extent — to keep the players motivated.
Someone asked me here this morning, “Do you think that the team plays better under Sheldon Keefe if Keefe becomes the coach tomorrow?” I do. I honestly do. But at the same time, I don’t think that means they should make the move. I still think they can play very well under Babcock.
Leafs Notebook: Babcock’s job security, new lines & and pairing ideas (MLHS)
Another must-read from MLHS’ own Anthony Petrielli.
Ultimately, my thought process would be, if you’re going to go down, go down swinging. Play your top players over 20 minutes each, give them extended power play looks, mix them in on the penalty kill if your depth players aren’t getting it done, and realistically, you have to ride Frederik Andersen right now. Don’t ride this on getting the fourth line ice time or get bogged down about roles. Put it on the shoulders of the stars