Frank Corrado has made some ears perk up over the last couple days with his outspokenness about his situation with the Leafs, and their apparent willingness to just flush seasons of his young career down the toilet while he sits doing nothing. No second half of back-to-backs, no AHL games, zip.
And that’s stirred up the debate over Toronto’s blue-line yet again. The infamous “Hunlak” pairing continues to see significant minutes, usually under barrage in their own zone, while Corrado can’t get a sniff of icetime. Babcock has been asked about it on both fronts – Corrado’s potential to crack the lineup, and his own insistence on Hunlak playing meaningful minutes on a team that supposedly isn’t tanking – and you get the feeling things are going to come to a conclusion one way or another soon, like they did with the recently-shipped-out Peter Holland.
Always said process is far more important than results for the #Leafs this year. Didn’t expect that perspective to expose Babcock
— Michael Forbes (@mforbes37) December 12, 2016
So with all this talk about Toronto’s defencemen, and some of the fanbase split on Babcock’s comments, I was wondering if anyone is truly having their confidence shaken in the head coach. And we should note that Corrado himself believes he has the support of Lamoriello, so who knows if this is a point of much contention between the bench staff and front office.
For the purposes of this roundtable, I put the question to our writers this way: “There’s been a lot of debate over Babcock’s use of gritty veterans over some younger, more skilled options like Connor Carrick (at times), Frank Corrado (always) and the now-traded Peter Holland. This isn’t entirely new, and goes back to his days in Detroit when a lot of Wings fans were frustrated with lineup decisions along the same lines. Is this something that’s shaken your confidence in Babcock himself, or the overall process at all?”
I would say my confidence is shaken a little bit. The pairing of Hunwick and Polak has been atrocious in terms of shot attempts but getting excellent save% behind them (something that they don’t influence significantly, despite what some may say). To me, it should be obvious that Marincin-Corrado are a better bottom pairing, and that Connor Carrick is significantly better than all 4 of them. But Babcock doesn’t see better with Polak and Hunwick, he sees “harder working”. This is an issue that is contributing to the Leafs’ poor defense. That pairing is a huge part of the problem, and that Babcock refuses to even attempt to play Frank Corrado is a concern for me.
To quote a text exchange I had while at the game last night (free tickets from work, what up): “‘Polak, Hunwick, and Brown out for the 5-on-3. Kill me.’ ‘Catch cry of Leafs fans everywhere.'” I can definitely say that my faith is shaken a bit. The Hunwick-Polak pairing is concerning at best, and Marincin-Corrado is definitely a more skilled bottom pairing. Or even better, Carrick with either of them. There seems to be a disconnect with Babcock between his desire to succeed with the Maple Leafs young guns, and his desire to prop them up with hard working veterans. Add to that his refusal to play Corrado and management’s refusal to waive him, along with his comment that getting into the lineup is dependent on how you play? Yeah, my faith is a little shaken.
I don’t think what’s happening with Babcock’s decisions in depth positions is something that shakes my confidence in him. Anybody who was paying attention to how he’s built teams elsewhere knew that this method of roster composition is a staple. For better or worse, he’s a results-driven coach who values outward effort and physical resiliency.
Maybe he’s right to; we all have our opinions on how to build a team, and while I disagree with some of his choices right now, it’s very possible that the guy they pay $50 million to might be onto something that the local blogger isn’t. But heading back towards a meat and potatoes approach to building a team isn’t want we expected from this management group and the staff members that feed into it. There are two trains of thought here; either they believe that’s the way to go, or they’re merely trying to appease their coach. If its the former, I respectfully disagree and will continue to make that known until we have a definitive outcome. If it’s the latter, someone please turn around to the war room and point out that there are six and a half years left on Babcock’s binding contract, and if they don’t want him to dress these players, they don’t have to acquire them for him.
I guess the short answer here is that this is about what I expected from Babcock, but not what I did from management, and we’ll see why that is and if it’s the right call in due time.
I don’t think I’ve lost any confidence in Babcock, because questions about his iffy lineup decisions were well-communicated by Wings writers for a while. Like Jeff, I am a bit surprised though by the management group and how they’ve facilitated this situation and allowed Babcock to have access to players he perceives as veteran safety nets. It isn’t what I thought “The Process” was about.
The Leafs will obviously be fine. They have stars-in-the-making and what looks to be a generational center in Matthews, to go along with Babcock’s unquestionably strong tactics. But when concerns arise about deployment like they have in the past week in particular, you start to wonder about the push-and-pull within the team and how some aspects of its performance are trade-offs for potential others. It’s likely a conversation we’ll be having a lot in the next few years. Shouldn’t be anything too serious, as long as they can win.