According to TSN the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Mike Babcock to a $50 million dollar deal to coach the team for the next eight years.
The deal comes after more than a week of breathless anticipation on where he might end up. Just yesterday the Leafs were “definitely out,” according to several sources, but apparently a last minute bidding war ended with the Leafs getting their man.
Still no word on how much input Babcock will have on the team’s management.
What This Means
As I wrote yesterday, the Leafs really needed a win – at least from an optics perspective – after going through one of the worst seasons in franchise history and missing out on winning the draft lottery.
This really puts a fresh coat of paint on the Leafs’ rebuilding plans as Babcock is pretty well considered the best coach in the NHL by most analysts. Many people thought that he would not consider the Leafs because they are so far from contention, so presumably Shanahan pitched him a plan that does not involve being terrible for the next half-decade.
While patience is no doubt a good thing for rebuilding teams, one only has to look at the perpetually high drafting Panthers to see the problems inherent in attempting to build through the draft over a long number of years.
Sure, patience is required and no one is calling for a Burke-esque Phil Kessel-type trade to advance the entire process, but the Leafs do have more inventory than the vast majority of teams that begin a rebuilding process.
No matter how this plays out, the main thing is that the Leafs have hired the best guy available for the job and it’s an exciting day for the team and their fans. No guarantees in sports, but one thing is fairly certain: the laid-back, free flowing days of allowing 40 shots per game and giving minimal efforts are over.
With Babcock as the coach, the Leafs entire young management team just gained a ton of credibility and it is my contention that this will go a long, long way in removing the “joke” tag which is often thrown in the Leafs direction.
There is some concern that hiring the coach before the GM is a mistake, which I address here.
By joining the Leafs, Babcock becomes the highest paid coach of all-time and the 30th in team history.
Today is a great day to be a Leafs fan.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.