Lupul happy to be reunited with Babcock
Joffrey Lupul played for Mike Babcock when they were with the Anaheim Ducks. (DAVE ABEL/Toronto Sun)
When Joffrey Lupul was drafted in 2002, he walked to the stage at the Air Canada Centre, put on an Anaheim jersey and shook hands with all the right people.
One of them was his new coach, Mike Babcock.
“What do I remember from back then?” Lupul said Saturday in an interview. “We were both at the start of our careers. It was kind of initiation time for both of us. It was my first year in the league. It was his first year (actually second) in the league. But one thing I learned quickly, he was a really hard worker, really prepared guy.
“I couldn’t critique him at all, looking back. I was just happy to be in the NHL. It was a long time ago, but the one thing that’s stuck with me is how he was the first guy there every day and the last guy to leave. And it was like that every day. He took a certain pride that nobody was ever going to outwork him or us.”
Lupul has yet to touch base with his old/new coach, figuring the last few days have been all consuming for Babcock. He’ll reach out eventually.
“I’ve been following this from the outside,” said Lupul, who has no idea whether he’ll be a Leaf by training camp. “I see he’s a little busy.”
His overall view of the move: “For me, this is a good thing. Put it this way, we’re better off today than we were three days ago.”
THIS AND THAT
Lupul’s rookie year happened to be the final year of Dan Bylsma’s playing career also. Bylsma was not a fan of Babcock as coach or person. He barely played in those two seasons in Anaheim. Now, oddly enough, Bylsma, who beat Babcock for a Stanley Cup, might end up coaching the Sabres because Babcock said no to Buffalo ... Wonder if goalie coach Jim Bedard, who predates Babcock in Detroit, will follow him to the Leafs. Bedard, an Ontario boy, has wanted to work in Toronto before ... Some things in life just fit: Connor McDavid’s agent happens to Bobby Orr ... When Tampa Bay was looking to make a minor deal with the Leafs in 2009, they asked for a Toronto player. In exchange, the Leafs asked for Alex Killorn, then a Harvard winger. Brian Lawton, then Tampa’s GM, wisely said no ... Who’s the real MVP in the NBA? Stephen Curry or LeBron James? We’ll see so in the NBA Finals ... Pretty heady company for Edwin Encarnacion. Since 2012, Encarnacion is tied for the home-run lead in the big leagues — with the all-time great Miguel Cabrera ... The Leafs have added Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter to their front office from the OHL. They’ve added Lindsay Hofford and Jim Paliafito from the OHL to their scouting staff. Looks like they’re going to hire OHL’s Sheldon Keefe as Marlies coach. There’s talk of Kelly McCrimmon coming in from the WHL. Don’t they have to hire somebody soon other than Babcock with NHL experience?
HEAR AND THERE
Is there a larger indictment of the Blue Jays than this: They are 2-21 in games in which they do not score five runs or more. They have lost their past 11 when scoring four or fewer runs. And they’ve had five strong starts in a row and have just one win to show for it ... This is Paul Beeston’s last season as president. He wanted to go out with a bang. Not this kind of bang. If the Jays continue this way, unfortunately this will be Alex Anthopoulos’ last season as general manager and John Gibbons’ last season as manager. The upper-ups at Rogers have been privately very clear about that .... This is how weird the AL East is: Eleven games ago, the Blue Jays were four games behind the New York Yankees. They have since gone 2-9. And they are still four games behind the Yankees ... Anthopoulos didn’t like his bullpen a year ago, when they saved 71% of opportunities. This year, he must hate it: 46.1% success rate thus far in save situations ... Of Brampton and Friday night: Rick Nash scored two goals for the Rangers. Tristan Thompson brought down 16 rebounds for the Cavs. And somewhere, Russell Peters made somebody laugh ... In three years in New York, Nash has scored at a 39-goal pace in the regular season and 12-goal pace in the playoffs ... Max Scherzer has made nine starts for Washington: Bryce Harper has hit seven home runs in those games.
SCENE AND HEARD
At the age of 21, after playing an overage year in junior, Tyler Johnson scored 68 points as an American Hockey League rookie. While one year younger this past season, Connor Brown scored 61 points as a rookie for the Marlies. Not saying Brown is about to become Johnson, but size-wise and production-wise, there are some similarities. In Johnson’s last junior season, he scored 115 points; Brown’s last junior season, 128 ... Cleveland has won five games in a row and looks to sweep Atlanta out of the NBA playoffs. In those five wins, Thompson, the Canadian power forward has averaged 13.2 rebounds and 11.6 points per game ... Keith Yandle is the Rangers version of Cody Franson: Looks great on a bad team, not so great on a good one ... He can play on my team: Ricky Foley ... More than one scout wonders: If the Leafs had a do-over from last June’s draft, would they still pick William Nylander or would they instead choose Dylan Larkin, who just signed with the Detroit Red Wings?
AND ANOTHER THING
This can’t end well: Michael Sam and Khalif Mitchell playing together on the Montreal Alouettes ... I call it the Memorial Cup and the Grey Cup and the Canadian Open. You can insert a sponsor’s name in front of it. I won’t ... Bet you don’t remember that Hunter once coached the Leafs AHL team in St. John’s for Cliff Fletcher and Bill Watters. Among his players that one season: An end-of-the-line Nick Kypreos and Oshawa Generals’ overly loud coach, D.J. Smith ... Terrence Ross had surgery on his ankle on Friday. They removed bone spurs and loose bodies from his ankle and hopefully inserted some basketball IQ ... A two-word definition of hypocrite: Slava Fetisov ... Good thing Danny Valencia and Chris Colabello can hit ... Happy birthday to Rob Ducey (50), Kris Draper (44), Tracy McGrady (36), Pete Liske (73), Marc Gagnon (40), Joe Dumars (52) and Bob Dylan (74) ... And hey, whatever became of Wayne Babych?
NEW MLSE BOSS SHOULD BE LOW-KEY
The choice to replace Tim Leiweke as CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was John Collins. All the contentious parties were in agreement — everyone except Collins, the chief operating officer of the National Hockey League.
He wanted no part of running Canada’s largest sporting company. So instead, after kicking names around for months and vehemently disagreeing on almost every viable candidate, the board of MLSE did the compromise thing: They will hire a guy they could have had months ago.
John Cassaday has been on the radar of MLSE for a long time. He used to be the head of Corus Entertainment and has been a high-level broadcast executive for about a quarter-century. At times it appeared that he had more interest in them than they actually had in him.
The best thing Cassaday could do now is stay out of the way of his major sporting franchises. Former CEO Richard Peddie tried to involve himself in the sporting end and his naivete and lack of knowledge damaged the product sufficiently. Leiweke had a background for sports and bluster when he took over MLSE. He has been a hurricane of sorts, knocking everything down, storms everything and rebuilding from the bottom. He hired Masai Ujiri. He hired Brendan Shanahan. He pushed for an Argos move to BMO Field. He paid huge money for soccer stars.
Cassaday doesn’t need to be so bold from the beginning. The company oozes money. He would be best, for now, to let Ujiri and Shanahan do the jobs they were hired for.
WILL BMO MOVE REKINDLE ARGOS FANDOM?
Section J. Row 49. I wish I could remember the seat numbers.
That’s where my dad and I sat at Exhibition Stadium for Argos games. Those were our season tickets, forever, with the same people sitting to our left, the same people sitting to our right, the same friends to meet at halftime while going for a hotdog.
It was part of my youth. George Cope said it was part of his youth. Larry Tanenbaum said he loved the Argos and used to go to games. Just about everybody who spoke at the news conference that introduced both the new owners of the Argos and the new home (one year from now) talked about what used to be.
This is forever the problem for the Argonauts. For too many of us, it is a memory from another time, both a stadium and a parent gone, Leo Cahill and Dick Thornton meaning more than Scott Milanovich and Andre Durie can ever mean.
Now this is the do-over. The chance, after all these years, to get it right. The last chance for the Argos, really. With wealthy, committed ownership, with an outdoor stadium, not like clunky Exhibition Stadium, that should be cozy and fun and oozing with atmosphere.
Tanenbaum is convinced every ticket will be sold at BMO “for years.” Maybe it will. We’ll find out. Are the Argos still an experience for father and son, for families, the way they once were? My relationship with my father was built around talking Argo football. Is that only of the past? Can it be rekindled a year from now and going forward at BMO?
GM AWARD MAKES NO SENSE
Steve Yzerman is one of the finalists for the General Manager of the Year award in the National Hockey League. Which really is the most nonsensical award in the game.
GMs aren’t like players or even coaches: They can’t be evaluated by single seasons. Take Yzerman, for example, who has done a wonderful job over five years in building the Tampa Bay Lightning to Stanley Cup contender. Now he was fortunate to start with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman when he was hired in 2010 — but the rest of the team is his.
He signed Tyler Johnson in 2010. He drafted Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat in 2011. He promoted Jon Cooper as coach and traded for goalie Ben Bishop in 2014. If he doesn’t make those moves, where are the Lightning? In 2014, he made the Marty St. Louis deal and wound up signing Ryan Callahan and free-agent Anton Stralman last summer.
This isn’t one year’s work. It’s a continuation. It’s years of planning and plotting and strategizing. To honour a general manager for any single year is nice. But not necessarily meaningful.