New year, same story. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs courtesy of the Boston Bruins. The 2018/2019 Maple Leaf season ends as a disappointing one, initially full of unlimited expectations followed by zero execution when it mattered most. As entertaining as the deciding game was, to then go along with all the chatter about firing the coach or trading Naz, it’s the comments after the game from Mike Babcock that still has all of my attention.
GO to 3:10 of this video and listen to the exchange about where the team needs to improve.
If you didn’t bother, let me summarize the exchange. A reporter asked Babs where he thinks the team needs to improve and where he sees the team heading into next season, and his response:
Well I think, you know, we got a couple guys coming that will help us up front, for sure, and make us bigger up front.
Coach, I have so many questions.
The Toronto Marlies have some pieces up front the Leafs will use next year at some point. However, leading scorer Jeremy Bracco, wingers Dmytro Timashov and Michael Carcone are all “little guys”, all under 6′ foot and two of them weigh 175 lbs. They can play, but they hardly make a junior team “bigger”.
The team is close to signing one of the best players in the KHL, a Russian winger named Ilya Mikheyev. Mikheyev played this season with ex-Leafs Cody Franson, Viktor Stalberg and Kris Versteeg. The deal isn’t signed just yet, but word is it will be soon. Mikheyev is 6’3 and will certainly bring a different element to the top 9 forwards next year. He potted 23 goals in the regular season and had 11 points in 13 playoff games. Signing a European project is always a wildcard move, but wait a sec, Babs said he has a ‘couple’ of guys coming. Does Mikheyev have a buddy riding shotgun from overseas? Nothing speculated as of yet. My euro scouts can’t seem to find wifi, so I won’t have an answer until next week.
This leaves us the free agent pool to comb through. So are we to expect Babcock knows who the Leafs are going to sign? That’s a big Drew Doughty but the team will definitely snoop around the bargain market once July 1 hits. Don’t bother asking about Panarin or Hayes, think more along the lines of a name like Riley Sheahan. His numbers won’t blow you away but he can play the wing and centre, is 6’3 and Babcock drafted him in the first round back 2010. Doesn’t hurt he’s an Ontario kid, either.
Mike Babcock believes the Maple Leafs are reinforcing their forward group with two bigger bodies. Who exactly he is talking about, not yet confirmed. We can also take away from these comments that Babcock believes he isn’t going anywhere. At this point, I would have to agree. Although sports have a tendency to become unpredictable, evident with the way this first round of the playoffs shaped up. Add in the fact all of Babcock’s ghosts came out to haunt him in game 7 and it’s a recipe for breaking news. Being haunted is never fun, good thing Babs has a couple of big bodies coming to help him out.