The Mike Babcock potential-free-agent story line will intensify now that the Detroit Red Wings are officially out of the playoffs. Babcock’s contract doesn’t officially expire until June 30th, but with the new rule allowing compensation for coaches in place, I’m inclined to believe the Red Wings and Babcock will sit down and discuss his future very soon.
Two weeks ago most people wouldn’t have given Edmonton much chance of landing Babcock, but I wonder if winning the McDavid lottery and hiring Peter Chiarelli has altered that stance.
McDavid and Chiarelli won’t cure all the woes of the Oilers instantly. They have many holes to fix, and Babcock is 52 years old.
Does he have the patience to join a rebuilding franchise? I would have said unlikely last week, but after listening to his post-game comments last night, I wonder if he is looking at joining a team with younger franchise players.
“Our team is not as good as it was,” he said after last night’s loss. “We battled our butt off just to get in the playoffs … Three
of our best players (Kronwall, Zetterberg and Datsyuk) are 34, 35 and 37..,” he said.
It is interesting to note that Zetterberg and Datsyuk don’t turn 35 and 37 until October and July, so clearly he was already thinking about next season.
Babcock is extremely competitive. He is used to winning, and he made an honest assessment about his current team. The Red Wings have managed to stay competitive for two and a half decades, which is amazing considering the only other franchises to make the playoffs five years in a row are Pittsburgh (9) Chicago (7) and the Rangers (5).
Was Babcock being pessimistic about the Wings’ future or simply realistic?
have lots of good, young players, no question about it. And we’ve got some good
ones coming. But who’s going to replace [Datsyuk]? I don’t think
[Datsyuk] is going anywhere right away, but that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve
got to have big time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So
those are questions that our organization works toward, we’ve been drafting
good, we’ve been developing good, but we’ve been winning too much. That’s the
facts,” said Babcock.
Imagine someone in Edmonton or Toronto or Buffalo suggesting there is a negative in winning too much.
He is accurate in saying it is hard to keep developing elite, top-end players late in the first round or subsequent rounds. The Wings won’t find another Datsyuk or Zetterberg in the 6th or 7th round any time soon, but he won’t gather much sympathy from fans or teams around the NHL because the Wings won too much.
Babcock has been in Detroit for ten seasons. He’s won 458 games. His lowest win total in a full season was 39 in 2014. He won 24 games in the shortened lockout season. The Oilers won 24 games in 2015.
His resume is unmatched by current head coaches. Two Olympic Gold medals, one Stanley Cup, two other Finals appearances and 11 playoff appearances. If he decides not to return to Detroit, which I believe occus, he will be the biggest free agent of the summer, and his decision to test free agency will impact many more coaches than just himself.
Babcock loves coaching. He loves talking with other coaches and he respects the fraternity, but he is acutely aware that by today’s NHL standards many head coaches are underpaid. I sense a part of him feels it is his responsibility to improve coaches salaries across the board, and the best way to do that is to test free agency and see what teams are willing to offer.
The NHL is full of 3rd liners and 3rd pairing defencemen making three, four or even five million dollars.
Are they more valuable than a head coach? I’d argue no.
Coaches salaries aren’t readily available to the public like player’s salaries are at NHL.Numbers.com, and often new coaches coming in will negotiate a lower salary than they should, just to get an opportunity to coach.
Even experienced coaches aren’t getting huge dollars. TSN listed the the top-ten coaching salaries at the start of this season as follows:
The three most recent Cup winners were at the top followed by coaches in major markets, and then Lindy Ruff (8th all-time in coaching wins) and Peter Laviolette (Stanley Cup winner.)
What could Babcock command as a free agent?
I’d say at least $4 million and possible as high as $5 million. His salary won’t count against the cap and owners in Edmonton, Toronto and Philadelphia would gladly pay him between $4-$5 million. San Jose and Buffalo might also want in on the bidding, but they are slightly more payroll conscious.
If Babcock elects not to re-sign in Detroit, then Boston (no GM in place yet to decide fate of Julien), New Jersey (co-coaches in Adam Oates and Scott Stevens) or even St. Louis (Hitchcock’s contract expires June 30th), could get involved.
We have never seen a head coach with Babcock’s credentials hit the open market, and I’d be very interested to see how much money he’d command.
We’ve seen GMs and owners throw caution to the wind and overpay many players, and I’m sure Babcock feels it is time head coaches receive their financial due.
Do the Oilers have a shot?
They have a much better chance today than they did on April 17th. I see them as one of the top three candidates right now.
The opportunity to coach Connor McDavid and the other young stars is appealing, but the bigger carrot is Babcock has worked with Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli in the past.
He knows their personalities and how they go about their business. Babcock has had a say in player personnel in Detroit, and he definitely would want a input with another organization, so his past working relationship with Chiarelli is a positive for the Oilers.
Babcock stated you need strength down the middle and on the blueline. The Oilers don’t have that today, but their depth chart looks like they could have top-end talent there very soon.
Of the teams potentially interested in Babcock, St.Louis has the best players in those positions today, but I believe the Oilers would rank in the middle amongst the other teams.
If Babcock is up for a challenge, Edmonton and Toronto would be at the top of the list, for slightly different reasons, but Edmonton has better young players.
Chiarelli said he wasn’t going to rush to hire a head coach, but now that the Red Wings are out of the playoffs the coaching talks, interviews and discussions will heighten.
A few weeks ago I thought it was a lock Todd Mclellan ends up in Edmonton, but now I signing Babcock is much closer to being reality than a pipe dream.
Bob McKenzie said on TSN 1040 in Vancouver today that he thinks Edmonton is at the top of the list for Babcock. Listen here.
Oilers fans might explode with excitement if their off-season consists of McDavid, Chiarelli and Babcock, which is fine, because Oilers fans have endured a lot of heartache during the past nine years.
3rd Annual Karoake Contest…
Our 3nd annual King/Queen of Karaoke goes on Friday May 22nd at On The Rocks.
If you think you can sing, or know someone who can get them to email a short 30 second-1 minute video audition tape to firstname.lastname@example.org before May 15th. We will pick the top-10 videos, and they along with a few guest celebrity Karaokiers will battle it out on May 22nd.
This year’s winner will win $1,000 in cash.
Tickets are $35, with all the money going to charity, and with your ticket you receive $45 in GCs. from On The Rocks and Oodle Noodle, as well as one drink when you arrive.
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