According to Mike Babcock, the writing was on the wall for his eventual firing as Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.
It’s been 15 months since Sheldon Keefe replaced the established bench boss, but the 57-year-old says it was operational differences and destiny that led to him being let go.
“It wasn’t shocking to me. I knew when Lou [Lamoriello] left, I was getting fired,” Babcock said in an interview with Sportsnet. “I really believe it is important for every general manager and coach to have their manager, and their coach; their guy. And that wasn’t me.”
Toronto relieved Lamoriello of his GM duties in April of 2018, almost 19 months before Babcock was eventually canned as the head coach.
After the Saskatoon native was let go, stories detailing alleged emotional abuse, which included forcing then high-profile rookie Mitch Marner to rank his teammates by work ethic. Babcock went on to allegedly share the list through the Leafs locker room.
More tales of his past as a hard-headed coach poured out as former Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen went into great detail about an incident of alleged verbal assault, causing the player to have a nervous breakdown. He went further, making it clear that Babcock was “the worst person [he] has ever met.”
All of it led to an outpouring of hockey media and fans alike to never want to catch a glimpse of Babcock in the NHL again. But according to Babcock, the stories were a little dicey.
"I'm not a big media guy, following what's going on. You know if you're getting whacked or not," the former NHL head coach said on "The Rod Pedersen Show" Tuesday when asked about being criticized by the media for the last 18 months. "I know who I am, I know what I've done. Some of this doesn't pass the smell test at all."
As for how he views the team now, under Keefe’s instruction, Babcock sees his fingerprints all over the foundation of the current roster.
“I have no problem with that whatsoever,” Babcock told Sportsnet. “Am I jealous at times? I mean, [Auston] Matthews has become a man, Marner has become a man … that’s the process you were involved in. “I’m proud of the fact that we went there, we had no players, we ended up with all these guys, we still have the franchise record for most wins. We didn’t get it done during playoff time.”
The Maple Leafs sit atop the NHL’s North Division with a 14-4-2 record and Matthews is on pace to break some franchise records this season.
Babcock, meanwhile, was recently hired by the University of Saskatchewan to coach their men’s hockey team.