On Monday, Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski posted an article entitled “Mike Babcock staying with the Detroit Red Wings?” Upon seeing this article, I thought it was going to be another case about why he will leave for Toronto or Pittsburgh, because Toronto is the Mecca of hockey and Pittsburgh because apparently he wants nothing more than to coach Sidney Crosby again, according to anybody you talk to in the Pittsburgh area.
Wyshynski does write that he wouldn’t be surprised if Babcock left for either of these destinations, but he isn’t as sold on the idea as I thought he might be.
Well, Greg, I’m here to put your mind at ease: Mike Babcock is not leaving Detroit.
I touched on the Babcock situation just as the season was getting under way. I said his lack of urgency was unsettling, but I still believed he would stay with the Red Wings. [By the way, if you like this post you can subscribe to our free newsletter to receive others like it]
Nothing Has Changed
Fast Forward two months later into the season, and I don’t think anything has changed.
In Wyshynski’s article, he mentions an article by MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, where Khan believes Babcock will stay because of the way the team has performed thus far in the season, and the crop of young prospects Detroit has in its farm system.
It’s true the Red Wings have mildly surpassed expectations so far this season. I thought they would be competing for the second or third spot in the Atlantic Division.
In their past 11 games, the Red Wings are 9-2. They have scored 42 goals during this stretch, scoring at least three goals in all but one game. The defense has allowed just 28 goals, including one shutout.
However, I don’t think the way Detroit has performed has anything to do with him wanting to stay. Sure, it’s an added bonus, but whether the Red Wings secure a top-three spot in the division or just inch into a wild-card spot, I don’t think that matters to Babcock.
He has noted on a number of occasions how he likes coaching the Red Wings and how him and general manager Ken Holland have a great working relationship. But for one reason or another, everyone thinks he wants the job in Toronto or Pittsburgh.
He has it great in Detroit right now. He’s coaching two of the best players in the game in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. He’s seeing youngsters like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser develop and start contributing. He’s got more prospects in the AHL in Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Petr Mrazek, who will be the Red Wings of tomorrow. He’s got a top-10 goalie in Jimmy Howard, who could put his name into Vezina Trophy consideration this season. In 2017, his team will be getting a new arena in a better location that should be able to help lure free agents again.
Can the Maple Leafs and Penguins say they have that? Why would Babcock want to leave the Red Wings?
Babcock has mentioned former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman used to work on one-year deals near the end of his career. I think this is a more likely scenario than Babcock leaving for Toronto or Pittsburgh.
Why Toronto Isn’t Ideal
Sure, Toronto would be a challenge. And I’m sure he would love working with Brendan Shanahan to resurrect a franchise that hasn’t seen a Stanley Cup since 1967. But honestly, do you think Babcock wants to be involved in that mess in Toronto?
After winning a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and nearly winning back-to-back Cups in 2009, the Red Wings haven’t been the dominant team they used to be. They have had to grow their organization within and rely on solid draft picks to replace the all-stars that used to suit up for them.
Only now are those prospects starting to develop and contribute on a regular basis for Detroit. Do you think he wants to start from scratch again, especially on a team has heavily scrutinized as the Maple Leafs? I’m guessing no. The Maple Leafs have some solid players, but they also have made some questionable signings as of late that will stunt the team’s growth.
And don’t even get me started on the Toronto media. The relationship between the Toronto media and the Maple Leafs is anything but friendly, and it gets worse the longer the team goes without winning a Cup. Do you think Babcock wants to be answer to that media after every loss? Again, I’m guessing no.
Why Pittsburgh Isn’t Ideal
I’m sure Babcock would love to coach Crosby on a daily basis. Who wouldn’t want to coach the league’s best player every day? However, the Penguins are no better off than the Red Wings at this point. In fact, I would say they are worse off.
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the best players in the league, but after them, the dropoff is humongous. The team has no depth. Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz are decent players, but do you think either of them would be doing as well as they are right now if they weren’t playing with Crosby or Malkin?
They’ve got a lack of forward depth, and I don’t think Babcock wants to start rebuilding another team.
Toronto and Pittsburgh certainly would pay Babcock well, but I don’t think money is an issue here. Mike Ilitch and Holland will pay Babcock whatever it takes. What choice do they have? Babcock clearly is the best coach in the NHL right now. The Red Wings have to do whatever it takes to keep him.
Babcock is not going anywhere. He’s got it too good in Detroit right now, and I don’t think he wants to leave all that behind for another project in Toronto or Pittsburgh.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.