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Could Mike Babcock be in Ken Holland’s plans?

The Oilers have found their guy. Late last night, Ken Holland officially accepted the position of Oilers general manager as the organization offered him a lucrative five-year deal worth $25 million. On to the next item on the agenda — finding a head coach.

Ken Hitchcock is still under contract with the team for another couple of years and the veteran coach has stated that he still wants to be behind the bench. The Hitchcock era was far from rosy last year, as the team got off to a quick start but then faded into oblivion. There were rumblings that the team didn’t respond well to Hitchcock’s tough, old-school style.

Dustin Nielson did a post this morning outlining some of the potential coaches that Ken Holland could hire. Hitchcock is one of them, Dave Tippett’s name has been thrown out there in rumours, and internal options like Glez Gulutzan and Jay Woodcroft are in the mix too. Perhaps the most interesting name on the list, though, is Mike Babcock.

Babcock was arguably the biggest free agent heading into the 2015 off-season. The Oilers were apparently interested in Babcock that summer but fell out of the sweepstakes early and brought his former assistant coach Todd McLellan on board. The Maple Leafs ended up with Babcock and he helped their rebuild turn around quicker than anybody could have expected.

After a tank year in 2015-16 that resulted in the team drafting Auston Matthews with the first-overall pick, the young Leafs surprised and made the playoffs in 2016-17. Since then, though, it’s been back-to-back letdowns in the first round as the Leafs can’t get over the hump that is the Boston Bruins.

Babcock is still currently the coach of the Leafs, but it isn’t certain that’ll be the case by the end of the summer.

The team blew a 3-2 series lead this spring and Babcock has come under a lot of criticism for it. Babcock has been slammed for not bothering to shorten his bench in Game 7, an inability to get the most out of his skilled players, and failing to adjust his special teams strategies.

There has also been plenty of talk about a rift between him and general manager Kyle Dubas. It’s been widely assumed that Dubas would prefer to promote Sheldon Keefe, who has done excellent work with the AHL Marlies and has been with Dubas since all the way back in his days with the Soo. Greyhounds of the OHL.

Our friends over at The Leafs Nation went through all of it here.

Also at Leafs Nation, a discussion of Mike Babcock, his large salary, and how it would affect the next team he works for. 

Ken Holland and Mike Babcock know each other well. Babcock coached the Red Wings for 10 seasons, appearing in the playoffs each year and winning the Stanley Cup in 2008. Though he hasn’t been able to get the Leafs over the hump, there’s no doubt that he’s played a key role in their rebuild. If Dubas decides to go in a different direction, could Babcock be the solution in Edmonton?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Babcock and Dubas dont see eye to eye and that isnt exactly news, but unless Babcock got the boot, I dont see him coming here, does anyone think Katz is going to want to pay Babcock 8 mil a yr? Not a chance So while that might make a great story line to read it sure isnt based in reality, Detorit wasnt willing to shell 8 mil a yr for Babcock when Holland was there, the Oilers could have went after Babock but it was too rich for their blood TM was 5 mil a year cheaper.

  • Johnny Loves Puck

    a LOT of $$$ is about to be tossed around right now and the imminent off-season. Is it calculated purchases by wise men honing in or is it a drunken sailor on shore leave?

  • Hemmercules

    Why do the dollars matter? Babcock could make 20 mil a season to be a coach and it makes zero difference to anyone but Babcock and his boss. People worry about what coaches and GM’s are getting paid as if Katz is spending their money on those contracts. Katz has never been shy about throwing money around so it’s not like there is any coach on the planet is out of his price range. If Holland wants Babs and Babs wants to coach in Edmonton Katz will make it happen money wise.

    Im not a Tippet fan, Hitch would be fine but I think Holland will want his own guy.

  • Rick Stroppel

    I am assuming the Apple Dumpling Gang does not receive guaranteed contracts. So if they fired Lowe, McTavish, Wayne Gretzky (no idea what he really does, Nicholson says he only comes to Edmonton twice a year), Coffey (ditto W. Gretzky), Howson (K. Gretzky can do his job), if they fired these five people, I think they could afford to hire Babcock.

  • Total Points

    Don’t want Babcock. He doesn’t play his skilled players.

    But I can see a scenario where Toronto retain some of his salary, say 2M, as I don’t believe Mathews likes playing for him and Dubas can then hire his own man

  • Kneedroptalbot

    When Babcock was hired by Toronto, he said it was an honor to coach “Canada’s Team”.
    If Ken Holland brings him to Edmonton, he will say, “It’s a privilege to coach the “Alberta Oilers”.
    Original name from the 1st WHA season.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “…and internal options like Glen Gulutzan…”

    As a person who drank-and was poisoned by-the Gully Kool Aid, I would politely suggest that he is not an option.

    Simply put, the Oilers can do better than Gully, who doesn’t have a track record of success. I don’t think the Oilers can afford to take a chance on a gentle coach who might have learned from previous failures.

  • HockeyRooster

    When the oilers hired Todd I felt they missed out on Babcock and was disappointed (and I think Todd is a great coach). After reading Babcock only played Matthews 17 mins in game 7 I felt a lot better about not having him in Edmonton. Great coach? Yes. Best coach for the Oilers, I’m not so sure. I don’t have a suggestion but nobody is asking so it works out well.
    It would be cool to see Julian (Todd Nelson) back though.

  • Oiler Al

    Don’t think coach Breau is coming to Edmonton.If the Leafs do turf him,he’d likely jump at the Buffalo opening.
    Breau has familt ties in Detroit, so Buff and Tor. are closer.

  • FINALLY!!!

    ” There were rumblings that the team didn’t respond well to Hitchcock’s tough, old-school style.”

    This is Hockey, at the highest level possible in terms of skill, maturity and lets face it, salary. The should be and are professionals. If there are elements on our team which could be characterized by the words “millennial snowflake”, they should be the first ones launched into space by Holland. Time to grow up.

  • McHitch

    We need Hitch.

    All the core players thrive undet him. Why would we want to change that? Get better support players and Hitch will get us into the playoffs.