TLN Roundtable – Is Babcock The Guy?

It’s not often that one of the most well-respected coaches in professional hockey becomes a free agent, but here we are.

Mike Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the NHL playoffs, and he’s now free to leave the organization and sign on with pretty much anyone he’d like. A Stanley Cup Champion and two-time Olympic Gold winner, Babcock will have the luxury of picking and choosing the right situation for him and his family; likely one where he’ll be able to continue his winning ways rather quickly. A lot of people think that’ll be Edmonton, which is kind of hilarious, but the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers are also looking for a bench boss. And hey, so are the Leafs.

They aren’t necessarily on the cusp of success, but Toronto has the deepest pockets in the league and can also offer Babcock something he likely won’t get elsewhere – control over the roster. While the Leafs might be a good fit for Babcock though, is he really the right guy for the Leafs?

Our TLN Roundtable has their say in the matter below…

Jon Steitzer

My thoughts on Babcock are complicated. I think he’s an excellent coach who has held Detroit in contention much longer than they should have been capable of. With that team ready to fall off the cliff the second he leaves I’m sure he’s ready to pursue other opportunities now. I hope it’s in Toronto, but not as a head coach.
Babcock as a head coach would definitely improve the Leafs, but maybe improve them too fast. I’m not ready for the Leafs to be out of high percentage draft lottery positions just yet. I want to see some further dismantling so the team can be built up. I see Babcock as a potential architect of that rebuild and that’s why I’d love to see him as the new Leafs GM.

The first benefit of Babcock as GM, is he’s the guy picking your next coach, and can help develop that coach whoever he may be. While he’s not an established GM, he’s certainly old boys clubsy enough that he can hold his own at GM meetings. And he knows what types of players need to be assembled to compete in today’s NHL. Going out and finding who they are and negotiating the cost of attaining them can fall on the front office committee at large. There is little doubt that Babcock would be reluctant to send back top prospects to junior or the AHL, and he’ll have the patience to wait for those players to be what the Leafs need them to be. So yes, Babcock is the guy for many reasons, but not as the head coach.

Adam Laskaris

I think Babcock has definitely earned his reputation as a quality NHL coach, and I doubt few would be displeased seeing him behind the bench 41 times a year (or more) at the Air Canada Centre. His Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals speak for themselves-with many believing he’s the best coach in today’s NHL. That being said, Mike Babcock might not be the best option. I doubt he’d be a bad one, but at the end of the day, there are always other options to explore. Not every coach (see Jon Cooper) has to have boatloads of experience before taking on a role as a new head coach. Babcock shouldn’t necessarily be THE guy simply because of what he’s won- but rather a strong candidate in the Leafs coaching race. 

After all, the last time the Leafs brought in a former Cup-winning coach, it didn’t turn out too well. No result is guaranteed- and without a competent roster, it won’t really matter if the Leafs have Babcock or not- as evidenced by the Red Wings results over the last few seasons. No matter how good your coach is (or is perceived to be), deep on-ice personnel seems to trump smarts off the ice. Babcock might be a great piece to add, but he’s just that, a small piece in a big puzzle of creating a great hockey team. There have been a lot of teams to win the Stanley Cup. Only one of them has ever been coached by Mike Babcock. Nothing’s guaranteed in the NHL, and while bringing in Babcock may see improvements to the overall makeup of the Maple Leafs, it’s not necessarily going to lead to great success. Approach optimistically, but cautiously.

Ryan Fancey

I can’t believe in just four months we’ve gone from having Randy Carlyle coaching the Leafs to wondering if Mike Babcock is good enough for the job. We’re terrible. 

In all seriousness, there’s obviously a question on everyone’s mind over whether the time is right, considering the team is in build mode and Babcock might want to walk into something more established, but if he signs on the dotted line, that’s his problem to sort out.

By all accounts Babcock is a smart coach and I think he’s made the most out of what he’s had in Detroit these past few years, plus he seems to be the top dog among his peers as he’s been the no-brainer choice to coach the highest profile teams ever assembled in 2010 and 2014. Count me in the group of folks who would be fine seeing the Leafs hire a guy like Blashill, or even Eakins, coaches with little or no NHL experience. Hell I would’ve been okay with holding on to Horachek. But the bottom line is there’s nothing to suggest Babcock is in any way a bad coach, or that he would do anything other than make the Leafs better. He’s going to be an expensive hire, but I don’t care – it isn’t cap money and I’m not spending it. You won’t see me crying if he comes to Toronto.

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  • passelin

    Oilers fan here – the only hilarious thing is that Toronto some writers think Babcock would want to come to Toronto – no pieces and no nothing. Now that… is hilarious.

    • jasken

      he damn sure ain’t going to sh*tshow that is the edmonton oilers even with that team of 1st overalls. he wants to win now not in possibly another 10+ years where edmonton will still be winning 1st overall picks.

    • silentbob

      Maybe he wants to be part of building a team (his team) from the group up, not just walking into a “turn key” situation and being in a position to win another cup.

      I’d like see Babcock here as our next coach and would have problem if he is the GM as well.

      He is a great coach and the type of person I want setting up the culture, system and style of play that should define the Leafs and Marlies for years to come. We don’t need a coach who is “good with young players”, his job isn’t going to be developing young players in the NHL. Thats what the Marlies are for, and our prospects should play with the Marlies until they are ready to come to the NHL and contribute. I don’t want to see Nylander, for example, with the Leafs until he is ready/able to have the same kind of rookie season that Nyquist had.

      Considering the Leafs have a different management structure then most (if not all) other teams I don’t think giving Babcock the coach/GM title would be a bad thing. His duties as GM won’t be the same as other GM’s around the league. I like the idea of our coach being as good a “hockey guy” as Babcock is and him having some significant influence on how the team is assembled.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I agree with Ryan that we are hopelessly pendular — our team plays like crap, we have to tear it all down, and now we wonder whether Babcock is the right guy.

    But since we are terrible, here’s my concern: he may want management to rebuild to faster to be contenders. The one way in which we are not so terrible now is that we’re actually willing to b patient to do this right.

    And all those gloating Oiler fans make Leaf fans look normal.

  • jasken

    First Babcock will go where his family is most benefited if his family wants to stay in Detroit that’s where he will be no offence people. Money really is not an issue with him it’s family, winning leaving a legacy, in that order. The fact is he wants Detroit to be committed to building a winner so they need to replenish their talent pool and get more talented young players. That’s what he has always want give him the pieces to succeed that is what will be in this contract.

    @Jon you sir are not bright at all you think a 27 win season ruined Quinn? Really he had 23 wins and 54 points in L.A. It didn’t ruin Quinn you dont ruin a great with a couple bad seasons 1400 games with 15 playoff appeareances in 20 years in a season.

    As much as everyone would like Babcock to come to Toronto it’s not going to happen. He dont want to be GM he’s already quashed that rumor which was just a joke to begin with.“As far as being general manager of a team, that’s not going to happen,” Babcock said. Both his interests and skill-set rests behind the bench, he assured.

  • jasken

    hope not. we don’t need a big shot coach during this rebuild. we should copy tampa and bring up an up and coming guy who can grow and develop with the young pieces during this rebuild. babcock is in win now mode. he has no patience for a rebuilding team who will be hot garbage for a while. he could go anywhere. absolutely no way he would come to this dump of a team competing for 1st overall for a while. babcock to me seems like he can’t relate to the young guys and his usage is questionable, like his over reliance on veterans over younger talent. need a coach that will develop these young guys and relate to them. cooper does a good job of that except constantly healthy scratching drouin to play morrow because it makes absolutely no sense.

  • walkingman11

    Babcock is a very accomplished coach but maybe his skill set is not optimal for the Leafs at this stage. Maybe the Leafs initially need someone with more experience and success working with a roster of many young players; Babcock might be ideal three or four years from now when the Leafs, hopefully, are ready to make the step into a serious Cup contender.

    I would also like to add a cautionary note regarding Cup-winning coaches. Since 1927, only three people have been a Stanley Cup-winning coach on two or more different clubs: Tommy Gorman (Blackhawks and Maroons), Dick Irvin (Leafs and Canadiens), and Scotty Bowman (Canadiens, Penguins, and Red Wings). Perhaps, no matter how talented a coach is, there is a time and place for championships. This is not to say that a Stanley Cup-winning coach can’t repeat that accomplishment in Toronto; only that history suggests that duplicating success in another city is very difficult.

  • TGT23

    Hey my Leaf Buddies…. you have a Mcdavid day now ok..

    Yes – Connor Mcdavid, In Oiler Silks.

    Now go and rebuild and try and win a Cup.

    Maple Laughs indeed.