Mike Babcock, Mike Babcock, Mike Babcock.
When the teams were narrowed down and the belief was an up-and-coming Buffalo Sabres team or a strong but questionable Detroit Red Wings team, Babcock oddly enough announced his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I don’t need to point out that Toronto has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons, nor what followed in the playoffs during the 48-game lockout-shortened season, as we are all aware of Toronto’s woes by now.
Can Babcock fix the Leafs? Can he do the same to Phil Kessel as Barry Trotz did to Alex Ovechkin and turn his game around? That remains to be seen.
But one thing is for sure, Babcock will be given plenty of time to work out the kinks in the Leafs’ roster and put a winning team on the ice.
He is in the perfect situation in Toronto, where losing can be shaken off by saying he expected things to get worse before they got better and winning with a rebuilding roster makes Babcock look even better within the hockey community.
Winning with the current Leafs team could be an achievement that he mentally stores right next to his Olympic gold’s and Stanley Cup.
McLellan the Perfect Fit for Edmonton
Due to Babcock’s signing, Todd McLellan’s contract seemed to be last page news. With a new proven coach, a proven GM and the expectation of Connor McDavid, this just may be the season the Oilers find their game.
McLellan and the Oilers already have two things in common, something to prove and the World Championships.
Todd McLellan has been one of the most successful regular season coaches over the past seven years. With the Sharks, McLellan posted a 311-163-66 record and became the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.
The end of McLellan in San Jose was merely due to the inability to accomplish the Sharks’ (and every other team’s) ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Management and McLellan decided to mutually part ways due to early playoff exits and some disappointing series losses.
That’s not all on a coach though, I’m sure Todd McLellan still trusts in himself to put a winning system in place, now he’s just going to do it with a blue and orange team instead.
Out to Prove It
“There will be painful days ahead for all of us. But your gut tells you that it’s right,” McLellan said, per Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy.
If you are considering that McLellan may fail to get over the hump with Edmonton in the playoffs much like the Sharks, then consider this instead, playoffs in Edmonton. Every season is a step-by-step process and once the team makes the playoffs again, joy will flood The City of Champions once again.
Sometimes just witnessing playoff hockey is enough. We all saw the beautiful sight of Winnipeg’s fans cheering loud and proud for their team seconds after being swept by the Anaheim Ducks. It was a beautiful moment in sports and one that Edmonton should take notes on for the road that lies ahead.
At the World Championships, McLellan’s hiring process was almost an audition for Edmonton. As the head coach of Canada, he led current Oilers Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall to a gold medal where they finished second and third in tournament scoring, respectively.
Sure, a stacked team that also included Sidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux and Nathan MacKinnon, just to name a few, was destined to win, but the fact is that they did win and McLellan coached them to victory.
But Edmonton is similar to Canada in that fact, stacked. Sure they may not have Crosby, Seguin or Giroux, but they do have Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and soon enough, Connor McDavid who were all number one overall draft picks. Not to mention Eberle, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl who were also first-round selections.
The bottom line is that McLellan is out to prove he can push a team over the hump. Babcock went to a team with no current demand for playoff success like Detroit’s management has. Babcock has taken a step backward in hockey’s ultimate goal.
McLellan has undertaken a large task of manipulating the pieces in the right direction while Babcock has undertaken the task of building is own team.