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Babcock Fired, Panthers Surging, and more!

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It’s our Thursday edition of Links, News, and Notes

Toronto Maple Leafs v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Was there a big news story this week? Really? I didn’t read about anything at all. Something out of the centre of the universe? I must have missed it!

  • But all jokes aside, as some of you may have possibly heard, Mike Babcock was fired yesterday by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brendan Shanahan joined the Leafs on their trip to Arizona and delivered the news in person after Wednesday morning’s skate. Chris Johnston has a good blow-by-blow of the whole thing for Sportsnet, including this spicy little tidbit that probably goes a long way to explaining why Babcock is out after just four and a half seasons:

“I think that we feel that we haven’t played up to our expectations this year. I think that there are key elements to our game and some attention to detail that has been missing often this year,” said Shanahan.

“We’re mistake-prone on defence, the attention to details aren’t there and even the explosive offence our team was known for has been missing for a while now.”

That last point strikes to the heart of the issue with Babcock — a man who once took the speed and skill of Team Canada and coached it into a relentless, tight-checking beast on the way to winning gold at the 2014 Olympics.

I strongly suspect we haven’t heard the last of this story.

  • Emily Kaplan has a great weekly feature at ESPN this season, and her focus turned this week to the surging Florida Panthers. The talent was there last year, too, but with Joel Quenneville manning the bench, the team seems poised to take the next step. The one sore point is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the terrible start for Sergei Bobrovsky. They’ve avoided a goalie controversy in Florida so far, but if Bob continues to struggle and Samuel Montembeault keeps up his stellar play is a change too far behind for a team with serious play-off aspirations?
  • Dom Luszczyszyn has a review of where things stand for all 31 teams at the season’s quarter pole. It’s at the Athletic, so behind a paywall, but if you’re subscriber I strongly recommend the read. Not enough prognosticators re-visit their predictions to understand what they got right and what they got wrong. About Ottawa, Dom has this to say:

Surprisingly, two of the teams with the highest increase happen to be Detroit and Ottawa. Though neither team is doing all that well, their underlying numbers at 5-on-5 aren’t as awful as expected and they’ve been able to hang in more games than expected (aside from Detroit’s one ugly stretch). For Detroit, the top line’s reputation continues to grow as all three of Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin had substantial jumps. The addition of Patrik Nemeth looks to be a great one to stabilize the blueline, too. All four are above 55 percent in expected goals which is huge on a team like Detroit. In Ottawa, Connor Brown is flourishing as the team’s most used forward with 14 points in 21 games and a 50 percent expected goals rate while other players like Vladislav Namestnikov, Anthony Duclair, Tyler Ennis and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are stepping up in bigger roles too.

  • Dimitri Filipovic has a cool piece up at ESPN looking at the scoring rate for the NHL’s superstars and how much of each of their team’s offense they are responsible for. It will probably be of no surprise to learn that the Oilers are basically Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and.....that’s about it. Still, there are some cool historical comparisons and I recommend the read.
  • Lastly, this isn’t really a link, news, or note but I just thought we should all bask in the glow of Brady Tkachuk’s OT winner from last night one more time: