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'HE DID A LOT FOR US': Firing Babcock tough for Shanahan

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (pictured) thought the time to fire head coach Mike Babcock had come. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (pictured) thought the time to fire head coach Mike Babcock had come. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

The text message asked Mike Babcock to come to Brendan Shanahan’s hotel room. Babcock was told Kyle Dubas would be there, too.

He had to know what was next.

“He’s a pro,” said Shanahan. “I knew and he knew what the conversation was going to be about.”

Almost five years after Shanahan convinced Babcock to come to the Maple Leafs, paying him more money than any coach in the history of the NHL, Shanahan relieved Babcock of his coaching duties on Wednesday in Arizona.

“It wasn’t a long conversation. They never are,” said Shanahan. “He was very professional … It’s always hard, whether you have a relationship with the person or don’t know them at all. I can’t say it’s ever not felt terrible (firing someone).

“I played for Mike. And I wanted to hire him here and we did. I had the unique experience of him being my boss and then some eight or nine years later and I wanted him to coach our team.

“I’ve known Babs a long time and all I feel for him is appreciation. He did a lot for us. I can tell you it was more fun hiring him than having the conversation today.”

What eventually led to the firing was apparent to anyone who has watched the team lately.

“We haven’t been satisfied with the performances of the team and you’re always looking for solutions. It heated up in the last couple of weeks and in the 48 hours. I felt, at this time, it was the best for everyone to do this and Kyle felt the same way.”

It seemed clear that Shanahan approached Dubas about firing Babcock before the opposite occurred.

“You can wait and wait until everyone’s home with some days off but I think we owed it to our team and our fans to do it now. We know what doesn’t work and didn’t work and hasn’t been working. There’s still a ton of work to do.”

Shanahan did say the firing was made more practical with the availability of Sheldon Keefe and the fact management is so comfortable and familiar with him.

“He knows our players, he knows our team, we know him, we felt Sheldon had earned the right to be a top candidate … He’s a demanding, detailed coach,” Shanahan said.

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