It seems like the ongoing chatter was telling the truth when it was mentioned following the Toronto Maple Leafs’ elimination in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins, that there was a feud between head coach Mike Babcock and star player Auston Matthews.
The young forward struggled mightily during the seven-game series, after he managed to score 34 goals and 63 points in 62 regular-season games. The 20-year-old centre tallied just one goal and one assist before the Leafs were shown the exit by the Bruins which prompted Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos to suggest following the series that Babcock “lost” Matthews.
“Towards the end [of the season], Babcock lost Matthews,” Kypreos had said. “I don’t know what happened but he lost him and there was no trust anymore.”
It seems that Babcock is worried about losing his young player and has traveled to Arizona to meet with his forwards, the Sportsnet panel revealed on Saturday night.
“The expectation is the two of them are going to talk or have talked this weekend as they try to air things out and fix things between them,” said Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman on Saturday during a segment of Hockey Night in Canada.
“It is common for star players sometimes to battle with their coaches for things such as ice time,” added Kypreos during Saturday’s Headlines segment. “But what isn’t that common is a week after [the Leafs were eliminated]. It’s clear that this is a priority for Babcock, who’s hoping to smooth things out so come training camp, everyone’s on the same page.”
Of course, Matthews never admitted that there might be some beef between him and his head coach, stating that “ Stuff happens, people speculate. I can tell you right now it’s not the case.”
However, the Maple Leafs fan base will be please to know this appears to be a priority to Babcock.
“The two of them are going to talk, or have talked this weekend, as they try to air things out and fix things between them.”
Sportsnets' new analyst, Brian Burke, mentioned on Wednesday that Babcock is known for being hard on his players, and things probably aren't different with the young forward.
“Mike has temporary rifts with players because he’s demanding,” Burke said back on Wednesday. “And that’s what hard coaches do. I don’t think a guy goes a month playing for Mike without having a day where he’s not sour at him. And these are all things that can be resolved, so I don’t think Nick’s wrong but I don’t think this means, ‘Oh good God we have to move a player or fire a coach.’
“Mike’s hard on players. Today there’s going to be eight players mad at him if they were still playing and tomorrow it’ll be four different ones.”