“He’s a really good coach. I’m sure a lot of teams want him.” — Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit Red Wings
And so it begins for real: Mike Babcock Watch.
With the Detroit Red Wings eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs Wednesday night, soon-to-be-free-agent head coach Mike Babcock — the only coach with a membership to the Triple Gold Club (Olympic gold, Stanley Cup, world championships) — was in no mood to discuss the giant question mark surrounding his future, stating he’ll address it on the Red Wings’ locker cleanout day, which will be Friday.
“I’ll be happy to talk about any of that crap then,” Babcock said following his team’s 2-0 loss in Game 7 to Tampa Bay Wednesday. “I’m not talking about that now.”
But others are.
What Babcock Did Say
Despite declining to get into that "crap," Babcock's commentary on the state of the Red Wings roster must not have instilled faith among Detroit fans hoping their coach will re-sign.
"Our team's not as good as it was," Babcock said. "No one even picks us to win in the playoffs.
"We are what we are," he went on. "[The Lightning] have a young team. They were bad here for long enough that they were able to rebuild and get good young players, and young players at key positions.
"Three of our best players are 34 [Niklas Kronwall], 35 [Henrik Zetterberg] and 37 [Pavel Datsyuk]. So any way you look at it, we're a team that's changed a ton of players. We're a team that's added a lot of youth to our lineup, and right now on the outside they don't pick us as a Stanley Cup contender."
The coach saw positives in the strength of the developing players in AHL at Grand Rapids, but hinted that he wanted to coach all-stars at important positions.
"Who's going to replace Pav? I don't think [Datsyuk] is going anywhere right away, but that's what you've got to do. You've got to have big-time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So those are questions that our organization works towards. We've been drafting good, we've been developing good, but we've been winning too much [to land top draft picks]. That's the facts."
Gotta See It: Mike Babcock's full post-Game 7 press conference
The Rumours and Reports
- Thursday morning, Sportsnet 590 The Fan host Dean Blundell reported from "a reliable source" that Babcock is seeking a contract in the neighbourhood of $40 million over the six years to become head coach and obtain a front office position if he is to join the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It would be a situation similar to the one Patrick Roy holds in Colorado. Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was asked about that type of setup after he fired Dave Nonis. Shanahan's response? "We will have an open mind in order to get the best people here."
- Asked on Blundell's show Thursday morning for teams that would have a legitimate shot at landing Babcock, Sportsnet insider Doug MacLean named three: Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago. Yes, Chicago.
MacLean is doubtful Babcock wants to take on a rebuilding project like those in Buffalo or Toronto. He figures the coach is looking for teams with "real players" and wants to win another Stanley Cup soon.
The fact that current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may not be long for Chicago, especially if they lose to Minnesota in their upcoming series, added MacLean, is a sentiment that has flown under the radar.
- Citing a Philadelphia Flyers source, NJ.com reported last week that the Pittsburgh Penguins have the best shot of signing Babcock should he leave Detroit — “with Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux said to be willing to offer whatever it takes money-wise as well as a GM title to go along with head coach,” wrote Randy Miller.
Pittsburgh executive David Moorehouse, however, spoke publicly in support of both his GM, Jim Rutherford, and coach, Mike Johnston, saying neither would lose their job after the Penguins playoff elimination.
- Minutes after Philadelphia fired head coach Craig Berube, Babcock was reported to be on the team's short list of targeted replacements.
Edmonton Journalran an article this week speculating that the addition of Connor McDavid could lure Babcock. Throw in new GM Peter Chiarelli and CEO Bob Nicholson – two Hockey Canada men who won gold with Babcock – and the pot sweetens.
“Combine all those factors, and the Oilers should be a much more appealing destination for coaching candidates around the league… The promising group of young players is still there, and will soon boast the best prospect the league has seen since at least 2005. There’s a new arena being built, and an owner in Daryl Katz who whatever his other faults has shown no compunctions about spending money on his hockey team,” wrote Jonathan Willis. “It just might be enough to attract Babcock, should he become available.”
LISTEN: Nick Kypreos doesn’t see fit with Babcock, Maple Leafs