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The Toronto Maple Leafs have hit some bumps early this the season, to say the least, and many thought the Leafs would look much better than they have to begin the season, and fans are starting to worry. The expectation is playoffs or bust, so could Babcock's job be on thin ice? Let’s dive in.
Ok so here's the thing, it's hard to believe the Leafs missing the playoffs. The Leafs key players would have to endure serious injuries or time off. Andersen would have to be dreadful. Their division is tough but can you envision Montreal, Buffalo, or Florida knocking Toronto out of their spot? The Leafs have too much talent to miss the playoffs.
Early this season the Leafs have not been playing good hockey. The defence has been just as suspect as it has in years past. They have been inconsistent, and so far their big trade acquisition Tyson Barrie has been a disappointment. He sports a team-worst -5 in the lineup. He also hasn't found the back on the net this season and has had a hard time adjusting to Babcock’s system.
Ceci has good stats but his play has been questionable at times. He’s looked slow and has gotten burned because of it. Jake Muzzin has been good this season but against teams like Boston, he seems to be careless with when pressured. Reilly has also been a turnover machine early in the season. The top 4 the Leafs D-core needs to step up their game. The Leafs defence as a whole has looked soft. Toronto's Achilles heel has been exposed early despite getting new faces.
The Leaf’s other big issue is not having a sturdy backup goalie. We all know that Andersen has played a lot of hockey, and the Finnish has responded brilliantly. However, the number of games played might be affecting his hot and cold playoff performances. Unfortunately, the backup situation since Curtis McElhinney left town has been less than stellar.
Babcock’s decision making when it comes to who's in the net has also been a question mark. Earlier this month Babcock placed Andersen in the Friday spot versus a weaker team, while Hutchison got Montreal. Why wouldn't Babcock want his best goalie against a rival? If anything they can have Hutchison play the weakened Sharks team instead. It's a weird circumstance that Babcock has been putting the Leafs.
No doubt the Leafs have had early-season problems so far, are they enough to keep the Leafs from making the playoffs? It’s unlikely given the talent surrounding this team, however, the chances Mike Babcock stays with the Leafs if they can’t correct their trajectory is not so encouraging. These next few weeks will be very important as it may decide Babcock’s job status.