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The Toronto Maple Leafs are aggressively in pursuit of two of the highest profile head coaches available on the market – former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, and current Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock – and are apparently willing to part with draft picks to get the deal done, according to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox.
Cox reported that the Maple Leafs’ management team has received permission to chat with Babcock, who only received the Red Wings’ permission to chat with opposing teams just this week. He also characterized the Maple Leafs as being “at the front of the line” in reaching out to Babcock to discuss a possible deal.
Could the Maple Leafs actually be a serious contender to land Babcock though? Considering the dysfunction the team endured this past season, the pressures of the Toronto market, and how far the club is away – by their own admission – from legitimately contending, it’s not hard to imagine that the Maple Leafs are a long shot in the Babcock sweepstakes.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed what he believes – based on the a conversation he had with the consensus choice for best coach in hockey – to be Babcock’s priorities during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada yesterday, and summarized the situation like this:
He said that the things that were most important to him as he searched through potential offers are the relationship between the GM and owner – can they work together? Also what is the team’s plan. And thirdly, how his family feels.
There’s a few things to note here if we’re into reading between the lines (and of course we are). The first is that Friedman stipulated that a potential employers “plan” is of interest to Babcock, more so than their current quality. That could be good news for the Maple Leafs.
Now Leafs fans just have to hope that Babcock’s family would be interested in the possibility of living in a major metropolitan area with the cultural amenities that the 6ix has to offer.
Finally it could come down to Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, the Maple Leafs’ management team and how well they can articulate their vision of the future and Babcock’s role within their half-constructed and non-traditional management setup.
Obviously they’re lining up for the opportunity.
They’re also not putting all of their eggs in the Babcock basket, as the Maple Leafs have also spoken with McLellan, who is – reportedly – the first choice of the Edmonton Oilers. Obviously Babcock is the jewel of the heavily hyped-up head coaching market this summer, but McLellan is an able bench boss who has accumulated a stellar record (in the regular season) over the past decade.
It seems very possible, even likely, that the Maple Leafs won’t manage to land either Babcock or his former assistant coach McLellan. Surely they remain solid long shots for both head coaches. Still as Cox has reported, they’re expected to have “serious talks” with both bench bosses in the coming weeks.