Author Topic: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?  (Read 805 times)

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Offline Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

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Knowing that there is already a Babcock thread somewhere, I thought I might venture a new one on a more focused topic.

What I'm wondering about is the career trajectories of Matthews, Nylander, and Marner.  Here you have three very creative, very talented forwards; the calling card of all 3 is the ability to make high-level moves at high speed (just below McDavid-level speed).  To have 3 such players on one team at the beginning of their careers is a rare thing very rare I would guess.  What I'm a bit worried about is Babcock's squandering the years when they will be at their fastest (which is not to say their best; supposedly forwards peak in their late 20s).

I understand what Babcock is trying to build.  My question is, could he still get to the "right way" by devising game plans that let these guys play a more open-throttle style at the beginning of their careers while still instilling defensive responsibility.  The fact is that by their mid-20s the Big 3 will very likely not be quite as fast/quick as they are now it's only natural.  If all goes well they will make up for it with experience, positioning etc., and still peak a bit later.

To me, we are in what seems like a not-to-be-missed opportunity to build a team concept that maximizes their skills-at-speed.  Their window of success is (hopefully) a long one, but the window to take advantage of the full range of their gifts is not.

Again, I think I understand where Babcock is coming from.  It's probably no coincidence that Andersen's stats were the worst during the first few weeks when the team was allowed to play a more aggressive style.  But anyone can see that the team is playing against the grain now.

Does anyone have thoughts along these lines?  Maybe I'm wrong and there's no way to get to Babcock's ultimate preferred Wings-like style except by doing it his way.  Still, it seems to me that with the right team development strategy you could have the best of both worlds.

Offline Hobbes

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2018, 07:23:28 AM »
When you look at the recent spate of losses the bulk of the glaring errors are coming from many of the younger kids. Last night it was a miscommunication/read with Dermott and Matthews. A few other recent losses are ill-advised pinches from Rielly. There was that atrociously soft play where Marner was lazy and got stripped of the puck right beside his own net. Gardiner has had a few of those brain-cramps recently. And Borgman.

That's not to say that the vets don't screw up too, but part of the Babcock methodology is to hammer those responsibilities into people and make them play a system over and over and over again until it's so second nature that it covers off the vast majority of those close situational reads and drastically reduces goals against. That seems to be what he's preaching and insisting on and perhaps once they're really got his system down he'll relax the reins a bit.

It's really hard to fathom some of his lineup decisions and icetime allotments but I'm pretty sure there's a method to his madness. I also think that there are enough other minds around that if he was doing something really "wrong" he would be clamped down upon by Lou or Shannahan...while he has a big voice in things, I don't think he has carte blanche with the team. If he doesn't have the support of at least senior management it doesn't happen. Maybe they're wrong, but there's a lot of experienced people involved in those decisions.

It's one of those "only time will tell" things but given the track record of the people involved I'm fairly open to accepting their expertise.
It's not denial...I'm just very selective about the reality I accept.

Online herman

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2018, 09:04:43 AM »
A+ Hobbes.

Online herman

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2018, 09:23:23 AM »
What I'm a bit worried about is Babcock's squandering the years when they will be at their fastest (which is not to say their best; supposedly forwards peak in their late 20s).
[...]
I understand what Babcock is trying to build.  My question is, could he still get to the "right way" by devising game plans that let these guys play a more open-throttle style at the beginning of their careers while still instilling defensive responsibility.  The fact is that by their mid-20s the Big 3 will very likely not be quite as fast/quick as they are now it's only natural.  If all goes well they will make up for it with experience, positioning etc., and still peak a bit later.

Having this much high octane talent all on the ground floor of their careers is close to unprecedented, so of course it is exciting and natural to want to see them fly.

Is there a window of opportunity that comes from having such a large proportion of your offense on ELCs? Absolutely. Is it squandered if we don't just let'em do their thing? I don't believe so.

Looking back at some perennial Cup winners and the pattern is that they have a solid core of talent running up the middle (above average G, at least 1 top flight D, 2-3 super F). While we largely have those components, our versions are not as game mature as theirs were when they won. Pittsburgh only got through their first time on Malkin's final ELC season and Letang's second, when they already had Fleury and Crosby on their 3rd/2nd contracts, insulated by veterans. Toews and Kane were on their final year when Chicago broke through (after going to the conference finals the year before).

The only way to really leverage this ELC window is to acquire expensive, needle moving players to be the core, but to get those players usually means losing one or more of the Big 3, and that's not ideal.

What matters more is taking advantage of depth ELCs when you already have an established core that is championship caliber. The veteran core the Leafs are currently working with (Kadri, Gardiner, JvR, Bozak, Komarov) are not. They're slowly becoming the supporting cast or being shipped off. Training the real horses on the team to be able to handle all facets of the game so they can lead the coming crop of players is what matters more, in my opinion.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 11:08:52 AM by herman »

Offline Strangelove

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2018, 10:11:41 AM »
A+ Hobbes.

If we're grading posts, I'l give his about a B.

To me, the idea that kids make more defensive mistakes is mostly an illusion created because people are looking for them. Poor coverage by Polak, Bozak, JVR, etc., is hardly less endemic than poor coverage by Matthews, Marner and Nylander. And the notion that kids might make defensive mistakes is definitely not a good reason to stifle their speed and creativity by line-matching and dump-and-chase hockey, particularly when that approach is causing the team to lose.

I agree with Hobbes that "time will tell". But to me, time has pretty much given its answer. The team needs a new system that doesn't rely so heavily on line matching (and on the likes of Komarov and Hymen) for its success.

Offline Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2018, 10:52:44 AM »
Is it squandered if we don't just let'em do their thing?

To be clear, that's not what I was saying.  I don't have a bumper sticker that says Bring Back The Torpedo.  What I was asking is if there's a 3rd way between that and hard line matching/full-on Wings, but leaning more toward the higher end of the octane scale.

Offline Highlander

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2018, 10:55:18 AM »
Maybe my timeline is wrong here but when we started this rebuild it was mentioned as a 5 year plan. Are we not only one and one half years into this plan?  Are we not ahead of schedule with playoff appearance last year and one looming ahead? 
Yes we have some frustration with some of the lineup decisions.  I am pretty sure that Komarov, Polak and Bozak will not be hear next year.  Perhaps JVR as well.  Which means more speedy younger legs. And as mentioned in posts above,  Matthews, Nylander and Marner will be more seasoned to lead.
I think everyone has to take  chill pill and believe in thy Babs.
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Offline Zee

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2018, 11:02:02 AM »
Maybe my timeline is wrong here but when we started this rebuild it was mentioned as a 5 year plan. Are we not only one and one half years into this plan?  Are we not ahead of schedule with playoff appearance last year and one looming ahead? 
Yes we have some frustration with some of the lineup decisions.  I am pretty sure that Komarov, Polak and Bozak will not be hear next year.  Perhaps JVR as well.  Which means more speedy younger legs. And as mentioned in posts above,  Matthews, Nylander and Marner will be more seasoned to lead.
I think everyone has to take  chill pill and believe in thy Babs.

This is what I'm struggling with as well.  We're the 2nd season removed from being 30th in the league.  The Leafs overachieved last season, made the playoffs and now expectations are that the Leafs should take the next step.  The core of this team is still very young, maybe it will take another 1-2 years before they take that next step and become a legit contender like Tampa.  Taking Tampa as an example, Brayden Point is 21, but most of the other key contributors are mid 20s.  That team has had time for their young players to season and they're a better team for it now. 

When the Leafs finished 30th, I think most Leafs fans were prepared for another 2-3 years of building the team, but then the playoffs happened right away and expectations have ramped up.  Maybe it's an unfair expectation on this group.

Online herman

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2018, 11:07:47 AM »
Is it squandered if we don't just let'em do their thing?

To be clear, that's not what I was saying.  I don't have a bumper sticker that says Bring Back The Torpedo.  What I was asking is if there's a 3rd way between that and hard line matching/full-on Wings, but leaning more toward the higher end of the octane scale.

Honestly, I think Babcock is chasing that 'middle' way in the way he's asking his best players to play. Line matching all season even when it is not necessary (and apparently detrimental) is clearly practice for the players and coaches in playoff situations, so you don't get boned by having to think first in an on the fly situation. He wants high octane offense, but not solo rushes where it's one and done; he's looking for sustained cycles of pressure. The Leafs are still carrying the puck when they have an opening, but with the tighter checking they've faced against certain teams, dumping it is the only available option. Getting better at that process and learning to breakdown opponents' structure is only going to serve the long-term good of the team. Learning how to defend aggressively as a group is something we're still not good at, and a lot of that is personnel: young stars that have never had to do it before + vets who only know how to make the suboptimal 'safe' play.

Really, what ails us most is consistent execution up and down the lineup.

Offline Hobbes

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2018, 02:10:42 PM »
Is it squandered if we don't just let'em do their thing?

To be clear, that's not what I was saying.  I don't have a bumper sticker that says Bring Back The Torpedo.  What I was asking is if there's a 3rd way between that and hard line matching/full-on Wings, but leaning more toward the higher end of the octane scale.

Honestly, I think Babcock is chasing that 'middle' way in the way he's asking his best players to play. Line matching all season even when it is not necessary (and apparently detrimental) is clearly practice for the players and coaches in playoff situations, so you don't get boned by having to think first in an on the fly situation. He wants high octane offense, but not solo rushes where it's one and done; he's looking for sustained cycles of pressure. The Leafs are still carrying the puck when they have an opening, but with the tighter checking they've faced against certain teams, dumping it is the only available option. Getting better at that process and learning to breakdown opponents' structure is only going to serve the long-term good of the team. Learning how to defend aggressively as a group is something we're still not good at, and a lot of that is personnel: young stars that have never had to do it before + vets who only know how to make the suboptimal 'safe' play.

Really, what ails us most is consistent execution up and down the lineup.

That's pretty much the way I see it. This is ingraining the habits that are necessary to have any chance of going deep, and until those lessons are learned we're going to be losing games. The idea is to lose them now, not during the offseason. We really don't want to be modeling ourselves after the Caps/Blues/Wild/Sharks when it comes to regular season vs playoff results.
It's not denial...I'm just very selective about the reality I accept.

Online herman

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2018, 02:43:59 PM »
That's pretty much the way I see it. This is ingraining the habits that are necessary to have any chance of going deep, and until those lessons are learned we're going to be losing games. The idea is to lose them now, not during the offseason. We really don't want to be modeling ourselves after the Caps/Blues/Wild/Sharks when it comes to regular season vs playoff results.

There's no glory in winning the President's Trophy (but there is money, apparently).

I find that a lot of people judge teams (and people) as if they are finished products in the here and now, and that's basically never the case. A lot of people were seeing the Leafs trending downward this season, especially from the heights of glory that were those 8-5 shoot'em ups (I loved them), and are rightly concerned the team is on the wrong path.

I see mistakes that are pretty easily fixable individually (but takes more time as a group), old roster/contract decisions that are being slowly sloughed off, and a fairly young team treading water when they're down 2 top 4 D and for awhile were missing their 1C, and generally holding all the top players in reserve with their minutes. We are largely playing better away from the puck but not quite for full 60 minutes yet. We're also in a fairly unique situation in the Atlantic in that even this losing is somewhat meaningless.

I think this is what naturally happens with young teams when the coach/front office has job security.

Offline Andy

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2018, 04:47:31 PM »
That's pretty much the way I see it. This is ingraining the habits that are necessary to have any chance of going deep, and until those lessons are learned we're going to be losing games. The idea is to lose them now, not during the offseason. We really don't want to be modeling ourselves after the Caps/Blues/Wild/Sharks when it comes to regular season vs playoff results.

There's no glory in winning the President's Trophy (but there is money, apparently).

I find that a lot of people judge teams (and people) as if they are finished products in the here and now, and that's basically never the case. A lot of people were seeing the Leafs trending downward this season, especially from the heights of glory that were those 8-5 shoot'em ups (I loved them), and are rightly concerned the team is on the wrong path.

I see mistakes that are pretty easily fixable individually (but takes more time as a group), old roster/contract decisions that are being slowly sloughed off, and a fairly young team treading water when they're down 2 top 4 D and for awhile were missing their 1C, and generally holding all the top players in reserve with their minutes. We are largely playing better away from the puck but not quite for full 60 minutes yet. We're also in a fairly unique situation in the Atlantic in that even this losing is somewhat meaningless.

I think this is what naturally happens with young teams when the coach/front office has job security.

See, I could get behind all of this if it were not for the fact that the team often looks slow and is regularly getting outplayed by inferior opponents. And giving up 35+ shots per game, imo, isn't exactly playing well without the puck as much as it's simply playing without the puck. And I certainly don't see how losing in the regular season means winning in the playoffs. They have mostly looked like crap for 2+ months and the only reason that losing is "somewhat meaningless" right now is Frederick Andersen. I don't see a magical turn around come playoff time unless they go back to playing largely puck-possession based. 

Online herman

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2018, 11:46:21 AM »
See, I could get behind all of this if it were not for the fact that the team often looks slow and is regularly getting outplayed by inferior opponents. And giving up 35+ shots per game, imo, isn't exactly playing well without the puck as much as it's simply playing without the puck. And I certainly don't see how losing in the regular season means winning in the playoffs. They have mostly looked like crap for 2+ months and the only reason that losing is "somewhat meaningless" right now is Frederick Andersen. I don't see a magical turn around come playoff time unless they go back to playing largely puck-possession based.

Well my point wasn't that they're not bad, but that they're still learning and changing habits/instincts on the ice, which leads to poor results at first due to lag time in decisions, mis-timed execution, etc. Instilling this as a team mentality also means playing poorer producers more at first because they already get it, but just can't do anything more interesting with it due to their talent deficit.

They look slow largely because the plays that would generally make them look fast and dangerous aren't quite connecting right now, but it's not like they're not trying them. What I like still, despite the mistakes, is that these mistakes are usually borne of trying to be aggressive.

Offline L K

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2018, 12:47:18 PM »
Maybe my timeline is wrong here but when we started this rebuild it was mentioned as a 5 year plan. Are we not only one and one half years into this plan?  Are we not ahead of schedule with playoff appearance last year and one looming ahead? 
Yes we have some frustration with some of the lineup decisions.  I am pretty sure that Komarov, Polak and Bozak will not be hear next year.  Perhaps JVR as well.  Which means more speedy younger legs. And as mentioned in posts above,  Matthews, Nylander and Marner will be more seasoned to lead.
I think everyone has to take  chill pill and believe in thy Babs.

I think the concept of the 5 year plan didn't anticipate that we would get the 1st overall pick and that it would be a guy of the caliber of Matthews.  The Leafs drafting Nolan Patrick and his 9 points in 39 games wouldn't have them sitting in this kind of position.  You likely would have seen more trades to move guys like Bozak/JVR because the team would have been quite a bit away from being a contending team.  They likely don't sign a guy like Marleau in the offseason because he wouldn't choose to come to a team that is still 3 years away from being a decent team. 

Everything kind of got turned over a bit when they got the #1 pick.  It's still a work in progress but the rebuild gets accelerated when you pick up a franchise player.  I think Nik has made this argument a few times before (and I'm probably not articulating it perfectly) that it was in some ways a bit of a bad thing that we got this good this fast.  We likely needed another bad draft year to pick up another top tier defenseman.  We probably got lucky having mono hand us Liljegren but they likely need a guy who is a little more like Dermott in terms of defensive play rather than another Jake Gardiner just to provide that level of balance to the defensive pairings. 
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 12:50:01 PM by L K »

Offline Highlander

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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2018, 11:09:32 AM »
Just read an interesting article praising Keefe to the hilt (Athletic).  He seems to be NHL material. As much as I believe in Babs, I could envision Keefe coaching the Leafs (his players) at some point.
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Re: Babcock's "right way" ... missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2018, 11:09:32 AM »