There's lots of blame to go around.
Like I said over at the HFB, I think this is mostly a mess of Dubas's creation. I'm still not convinced the Tavares signing was necessary. I think he should've told Nylander to pound sand and then traded him for a defenseman. I think if he absolutely HAD to trade Kadri, he needed to get back someone who could provide the same kind of matchup prowess, be it a forward or a defenseman. I don't know how he looks at recent Cup-winners and says, "OK, so this is clearly a speed and skill league and so that's going to be our identity." Did he watch the Blues last season? Did he not see what Barry Trotz was able to do with the Caps? Does he understand how Mike Sullivan was able to get back-to-back Cups out of the Pens? Has he ever talked to a Red Wings fan about all the powerhouse Wings teams that got kicked in the teeth in the playoffs?
Did he ever look over the roster that got Babcock his one and only Cup? Prob'ly not. Because Babcock was never His Guy. And I think that was the fundamental problem. Dubas wants someone who sees things the way he sees them, or at least someone who won't give him pushback on everything. Babcock doesn't see things the way Dubas does, and this is a man who'd "fight" with Ken Holland on a daily basis. So, a breakup was inevitable.
I'm not saying Babcock is blameless. If Babcock is half the coach his trillion-dollar contract says he is, the Leafs are not out of the playoff picture right now. But, again, look at the makeup of recent Cup winners. For the most part, they were driven by highly experienced, battle-hardened players. Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Rielly -- they're still learning what it takes to win in this league. They haven't lost enough. They haven't suffered enough. They haven't had that "change or die" moment thrust upon them and consciously chosen to change. They don't have a Datsyuk. They don't have a Zetterberg. They don't have a Backstrom. They don't have an O'Reilly. They don't have an identity that's been forged in a crucible and has emerged organically. They just have a lot of scorers.
Tavares = Elite, veteran scoring center with a weak D game who will probably never have an "Yzerman under Bowman" arch
Matthews = Elite, baby-aged scoring center with a weak D game
Marner = Elite, baby-aged scoring winger who's probably the closest thing they have to a (young!) Datsyuk/Zetterberg
Nylander = Baby-aged top-six scorer, nothing terribly special, every good playoff team has at least two
Kapanen = Baby-aged top-six/nine scoring winger, nothing terribly special, every good playoff team has at least two
Johnson, Kerfoot (et al.?) = I'm sensing a pattern here
Rielly = Solid, young 1D
Muzzin = Solid, veteran top-four complementary defenseman who can play big minutes
Barrie = High-end, veteran scoring defenseman who is either The Jesus of Good Hockey or a one-dimensional bottom-four guy, depending on who you ask
Ceci = He exists
Anderson = Probably deserves better
Is there an unreal amount of talent on this roster? Absolutely. Is it weighted all wrong? If it's Cup-or-bust for them this season, yes, absolutely.