Ron MacLean: Babcock watching Leafs ‘carefully’

Glenn Healy and Darren Pang debate the finer things in hockey, including the Mike Babcock situation in Detroit and the merit of drafting small goalies in the NHL.

Mike Babcock’s future remains a hot topic and Ron MacLean thinks the Red Wings head coach is keeping a close eye on a rival club.

“I think he’s probably watching Toronto as carefully as anything,” MacLean told Brady & Walker Friday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “Not his own team, but Toronto, to decide if he wants to come here.”

Babcock, who is now in his 10th season behind the Detroit Red Wings bench, has been a revelation since entering the NHL coaching scene and he’d be the most sought after coaching commodity in recent memory if he chose to step away from the team that he’s helmed since 2005-06 when his current contract expires at the end of the season.

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Not only has the 51-year-old won a Stanley Cup, a pair of Olympic gold medals, an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, and a World Junior Championship, but he’s missed the playoffs only once in his 11 seasons behind an NHL bench, with his Red Wings sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference so far this season.

“He’s been spoiled with Lidstrom, and Datsyuk, and Zetterberg. (But) I remember when they acquired Rafalski and he knew they’d win a cup.” MacLean said. “He really knows players.

“I think you could look at Babcock watching Kessel and Phaneuf, the two lynchpins of the Toronto team (to see if there’s something he can win with here).”

One of the areas the MacLean thinks is pivotal to Babcock’s decision is whether or not there’s improvement in the turnover department from the Leafs.

“The Olympic program (coaches) all have a different plus/minus than we are used to,” MacLean said. “They don’t go by goals for and against, they go by turnovers. And they go specifically by when you move the puck if something good happens… then you get a plus. If you move the puck and it results in a turnover it’s a negative. … And they double those pluses and minus at the two bluelines.

“That’s what Babcock’s looking at this year.”

Regardless if the Leafs do continue to see improvement in all areas of the ice, which one could credit to current head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff, MacLean admits that there’s a lot to the decision and the play of the Red Wings could go a long way to determining where Babcock finds himself in a year’s time.

Wherever that may be, there’s no denying he’ll have almost full autonomy, with Toronto being a viable destination.

“He’s in the catbird seat,” MacLean said. “He’s in a good spot. It’s not about money. It’s about him wanting that challenge of a dynasty (with the) Toronto Maple Leafs. If he sees a team he thinks he can win with then he’ll be here.”

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