Mike Babcock’s future in Detroit was the subject of intense speculation, but a published report indicates the veteran coach will remain with the Red Wings. The organization’s astonishing competitive consistency made it an easy decision for Babcock.
That sound you’re hearing is Red Wings fans exhaling a giant sigh of relief: according to Windsor Star columnist and THN contributor Bob Duff, Detroit coach Mike Babcock is on the verge of agreeing to a multi-year contract extension. Babcock had been the subject of intense speculation he would move on – to the Wings’ division rival Maple Leafs, some said – when his current deal expired at the end of this season, but his links to the team were not easily broken, especially considering how well it has started the 2014-15 campaign.
Although the Wings were beaten at home by Toronto Wednesday night, they still had the Eastern Conference’s best record (17-6-6) and only Anaheim had more points (43) than Detroit’s 40. This, despite a roster whose two best players aren’t far from retirement. This, despite a patchwork defense corps that’s hardly the envy of the NHL. This, despite the hiccups and backsliding that can occur when you’re attempting to assimilate a new generation of young talent into the sport’s top professional league. The Red Wings throw aside more phoney crutches than a fraudulent religious healer’s act and just go out there and win, and when you’re as much a part of that culture as Babcock is, it’s next to impossible to walk away from it.
And if people are waiting for Detroit’s bubble to burst in the next few months, recall last season, where they were more of a triage unit than a hockey team: Babcock’s team could’ve leaned on any of those excuses to miss the playoffs and end the Wings’ insane post-season streak. Didn’t happen. Youngsters such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar continued to develop.
The Leafs (and about 29 other teams) would’ve loved to hire Babcock, but they’ll move along without him and wait for another coach they like – for instance, a Lindy Ruff, or an Alain Vigneault – to be looking for work. But Babcock’s familiarity with and fondness for the franchise with which his coaching career has peaked made his decision process relatively easy. So did the future he sees for it. At 51 years of age, Babcock has a lot of years of coaching left in him if he wants to stick around, and he wouldn’t recommit to Detroit if he believed he wouldn’t have the organizational support and expertise necessary to win his second Stanley Cup. He also easily could’ve broken the bank with a more lucrative contract than the Wings offered him, but he didn’t wait until the off-season to drive up his price and soak his employers for a few hundred thousand dollars more.
The Wings have their challenges, but in the end, too many things keep going right in Detroit for Babcock to get hung up on anything that was going wrong.