That all changed when the team was eliminated from the playoffs and Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos ruffled some feathers by suggesting there might be a rift between the two.
“Towards the end [of the season], Babcock lost Matthews,” Kypreos said. “I don’t know what happened but he lost him and there was no trust anymore.”
The player and coach both denied their relationship was in dire straits during the team’s end-of-season locker cleanout this past week with Babcock saying he has “a good relationship” with the star forward and Matthews agreeing.
Brian Burke, Sportsnet’s newest hockey analyst, doesn’t think it’s anything Maple Leafs fans should be too concerned about.
“Mike has temporary rifts with players because he’s demanding,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup Wednesday. “And that’s what hard coaches do. I don’t think a guy goes a month playing for Mike without having a day where he’s not sour at him. And these are all things that can be resolved, so I don’t think Nick’s wrong but I don’t think this means, ‘Oh good God we have to move a player or fire a coach.’
“Mike’s hard on players. Today there’s going to be eight players mad at him if they were still playing and tomorrow it’ll be four different ones.”
“I played for [now-former Leafs GM] Lou Lamoriello at Providence College for years. He was a hard coach,” Burke added. “There were plenty of days where I walked out of the rink cursing him, just saying, ‘This guy might be the biggest jerk I ever met,’ and then three days later everything was fine, so I don’t think [a potential Matthews-Babcock rift] is a huge problem.”