Babcock leaves Red Wings for megacontract with Leafs

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Maple Leafs Hire Mike Babcock After 10 Seasons With Red Wings.

Just 24 hours after many NHL executives ruled out the possibility of Mike Babcock coming to Toronto, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan’s landing of the veteran coach Wednesday must be considered a coup. The deal, which was first reported by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, comes after two weeks of pitches from teams that included the aspirational Buffalo Sabres and the scorned Detroit Red Wings. According to Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, the deal is believed to be for eight years and could be worth as much as $50 million, with a possible out after five. Jeff Veillette first reported on Twitter that a private jet registered to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — the team’s ownership group — was scheduled to head to Detroit on Tuesday and “depart within three minutes of arrival.” Babcock spent a decade with the Red Wings, winning the 2008 Stanley Cup and losing in the finals the next season. Under his leadership in Detroit, Babcock posted a 458-223-105 regular season record as he became their franchise leader in games coached (786) and wins.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said earlier this month, after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, that money would be no object to keeping Babcock. There’s the analytics-driven management team Shanahan installed, a sign the Leafs are one of the league’s more forward-thinking organizations after years of a knuckle-dragging mentality. There’s the willingness to use MLSE’s bottomless vat of money to improve the team at any cost, as evidenced by the team discarding that awful Clarkson contract to take on the hefty deal of Nathan Horton, which will be LTIR’d in perpetuity. The foundation of the Leafs’ future has yet to be poured; Shanahan is still standing over the current one with a jackhammer, trying to figure a way to pry loose any remaining players in an effort to create a clean slate. Throughout his tenure as an NHL head coach, Babcock has led his teams to the Stanley Cup final three times and the Western Conference finals four times.

Whatever Shanahan wants to do in this regard, whether it’s discarding Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, both or none, clearly Babcock is a believer in the nuts and bolts of the plan. Despite the Maple Leafs’ 30-44-8 record this season — not to mention the Raptors’ up-and-down history or Toronto FC never having made the MLS playoffs — MLSE is highly profitable. Prior to stepping behind the bench in Anaheim, Babcock spent two seasons (2000-02) as head coach of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League (AHL). When the fog clears on your hangover tomorrow and you’re tempted to raise expectations right away, just remember there’s a reason why Babcock took an eight-year deal with an out clause after five years. In international play, Babcock became the only coach in hockey history to lead his country to gold in consecutive Olympic appearances after guiding Canada in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi, Russia (2014).

Yes, the Oilers are the NHL’s version of a siren’s song every summer, sending fans and analysts sure of a turnaround crashing into the rocks once the season begins, but the song is far too beautiful to be ignored this time. The Leafs’ prospects are ranked 19th, although they will add whoever they take with the fourth pick in the draft, perhaps Dylan Strome, to bolster that crop headed by last year’s top pick, William Nylander. It’s not out of the question they could find themselves picking top prospect Auston Matthews with the first pick in 2016 if they spend of the offseason stripping down the roster, which may be their ultimate goal in 2015-16.

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