Friedman and Cox Have Some Big Updates on the Leafs’ Coaching and General Manager Search

It’s all getting very real, very fast. 

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Damien Cox revealed some pretty interesting news during this afternoon’s Hockey Night in Canada “Saturday Headlines” segment regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs’ search for a new coach and general manager. Some pretty significant names were dropped, so let’s break it down…

Mike Babcock

According to Friedman, the Leafs have filed for permission from the Detroit Red Wings to hire head coaching candidate Mike Babcock. Yes, Babcock’s technically about to become a free agent, but Detroit was smart enough to make interested teams sign an agreement stating that if they hired the veteran coach before his contract actually runs out, they’d need to cough up a draft pick.

Think of it as trading a conditional pick for the rights to talk to a player – it’s only if they sign that the condition is met and the pick is exchanged.

That being said, Toronto aren’t the only team who’s looking to hire Babcock. More from Friedman…

“As of last night, only two teams had officially filed for permission, agreeing to give up compensation if they hired Mike Babcock, and that was Toronto and Buffalo.”

As we discussed yesterday, it’s looking like Babcock’s decision will come down to Toronto, Detroit or Buffalo.

Cox carried on with Friedman’s report on Babcock, saying that if he does decide to stay in Detroit, both Toronto and Buffalo, and a number of other teams, will look into the possibility of hiring Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill. Detroit has kept suitors away from Blashill in the past, as the Red Wings have considered him Babcock’s successor should he leave. If Babcock signs an extension, it’s not likely Detroit will be able to hold Blashill back any longer from pursuing a head coaching gig elsewhere.

Sheldon Keefe

Ok, so we’ve kind of been expecting this anyways, but it looks like Soo Greyhounds head coach Sheldon Keefe could very well be joining the Maple Leafs organization sooner rather than later. From Cox…

“Another young coach looking to possibly get into the National Hockey League is Sheldon Keefe of the Soo Greyhounds. His likeliest destination – Toronto – not as their head coach at the NHL level, but somewhere in the organization. The Marlie coaches are still waiting to learn their fate in Toronto.”

Considering Keefe’s relationship with Leafs Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas, who hired Keefe in Sault Ste. Marie, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I’d be surprised if Keefe was hired on to be an assistant coach as part of a currently non-existent head coach’s staff, so we’re likely going to see Keefe take over the Marlies coaching duties from Gord Dineen.

The GM Search

Cox is on a roll, so I’m just going to let him finish…

“Finally, lost in Babwatch has been Toronto’s search for a General Manager. Elliotte and I have been able to find four candidates we believe the Leafs are very interested in – Julien Brisebois of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Gorton of the New York Rangers, Mike Futa of the L.A. Kings, and also George McPhee, the former general manager of the Washington Capitals.”

In addition, Cox mentioned that the Rangers aren’t letting anyone talk to Gorton as they’re still competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and also noted that Toronto has already been in touch with Mike Futa regarding the GM position.

On McPhee, Friedman added that the Boston Bruins were also interested in his services. That would be a-ok with me, as I don’t know how I feel about hiring a guy who traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat.

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, TLN previously acquired the totally real and not at all fake resumes of Julien Brisebois, Jeff Gorton, Mike Futa and George McPhee.

You can watch the entire Hockey Night in Canada Saturday Headlines segment below…

  • I really hate the thought of Leafs giving up any compensation whatsoever,
    [especially draft picks], in order to hire a guy like Mike Babcock and I’m
    fully aware of his superb command of the Red Wings and those 2 Canadian Olympic Gold Medals in Vancouver and in Sochi, Russia, but look at what Babs had to work with in those circumstances. The Leafs of 2015 need a patient teacher- type coach, an individual with Leafs’ management backing who is prepared to go all in for a painful 5 years of
    slow, slow progress. Toronto is many years away from being a ” serious contender ” in the NHL; 5 years minimum and that’s if everything goes perfectly, which means wise drafting, especially this year, trading away
    current roster players, who will never be part of a Leaf rebuild, [trading for
    current or future draft picks], bottom feeding for a few years so as to select high in several future NHL Entry Drafts and just maybe, with some luck a new team culture might evolve. Babcock’s a here and now guy and nobody will transform the Leaf organization in the short run, NOBODY !

  • Gary Empey

    I think it’s funny that Babcock hasn’t actually said he is chasing money, nor does he want a Stanley Cup in the short term.

    We can all assume this, maybe he picks Toronto because he wants to build them into what the Red Wings were and they eventually are continually successful and a Stanley Cup contender every year. Maybe he wants to be a part of that, even if during his time they don’t win one but allows the next coach to be able to, much like Scotty Bowman set up for him.

    Maybe the pride of getting his local team back to the level where they are always playoff locks is something he values.

    I have no problem if Babcock wants to be Toronto Scotty Bowman, even if he cannot get the Cup himself in the time he is behind the bench.