Mike Babcock has let his players know what they need to do to inspire Lou Lamoriello to improve the team at this year’s trade deadline. Play good hockey and win games. But if a significant Toronto Maple Leafs trade is on the horizon, it won’t be because the Leafs suddenly go on a tear. Lou Lamoriello isn’t one to make short-sighted decisions. He’ll make a trade only if it helps the team. Despite how the Leafs play for the next few weeks.
Babcock Hints At Deadline Toronto Maple Leafs Trade
“You know, the bottom line is it’s our job as a team to put as much pressure as we can on Lou to help us,” Babcock told Chris Johnston of Sportsnet on Wednesday. “The only way you do that – you don’t do it by talking – you do it by playing. Play well, and the better you play, and the more you look like you’ve got a chance, the more opportunity you have for your general manager to help you.”
Babcock and Lamoriello are not silos within the Leafs organization. They are committed to the same goals and agree on how to get there. Babcock knows full well that Lamoriello is not going to make a knee-jerk trade. Even if the Leafs go on a hot streak.
Babcock would love to see a top four defender join the team. Or a reliable center that can eat some tough minutes late in a close game. But only if it’s a good trade. The fact is, trade deadline deals are rarely good for the buyer in the long run. Or in the short term for that matter.
What Does Babcock Really Want?
So what’s he talking about? Mostly, it’s pretty good motivation for the players heading into the final segment of the season. If the Leafs put their defensive concerns to rest and starting winning like the Vegas Golden Knights over the next four weeks, don’t expect a Kasperi Kapanen for Mike Green sort of trade.
More likely is a trade that allows the Leafs to stock futures. They could trade one of the team’s pending UFAs. Then package the return for a rental of their own. A three-way with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings that sees Detroit getting futures, Toronto getting Green, and the Penguins getting Tyler Bozak for example. But with Travis Dermott putting on a good show in his NHL debut, the Leafs may be better suited keeping Bozak.
That’s not to say the Leafs aren’t going to go into these playoffs with the goal of winning a Stanley Cup. We’ve seen that anything is possible in the playoffs. The 2011-2012 Los Angels Kings finished 13th in the League and won the Cup.
The Leafs will try to improve the team, but not at the cost of the future. It’s far more important the team competes year in and year out over the next decade. They’re at the beginning of what looks like a long window of Cup contention. There’s no need to push hard now at the expense of future star players.
That being said, they have made some curious moves that some might say is a sign of impatience. The signing of Patrick Marleau is a prime example. That decision has only cost money, so far. An expensive rental could cost a lot more. Babcock’s Red Wings traded their 2012 1st round pick for Kyle Quincey. That draft pick turned into Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Maple Leafs don’t want to make that kind of mistake. They don’t have to risk it this year with so many young talented players on the roster.
The Leafs are under no pressure to win now. They can be patient. They probably will be active at the trade deadline this year. But not in a blockbuster, and not for a rental. What they do need is better team play and confidence. That comes from motivation, which as a good coach, is exactly what Babcock is providing.
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