Toronto Maple Leafs hire Mike Babcock as Head Coach

To say that the Leafs head coach speculation chamber has been burning for a while is an understatement. Randy Carlyle developed a group of skeptics early into his tenure, a tenure that lasted longer than many hoped. Peter Horachek did what he could, but his team ran itself into the basement. Needless to say, hopes have been high for somebody to come in and steer this systematically flawed ship back into fair seas.

Mike Babcock, for much of the past few years, has been considered a “dream scenario” by many. Today, that dream became a reality.

The Man

I think we’re all very aware of Babcock’s history at this point. The 52 year old native of Manitouwadge, Ontario started his coaching career at Red Deer College in 1988, winning his first signifcant trophy, an Altberta Provincial Championship. Of course, today, it’s insignificant, but it was the beginning of great things to come for a man who at this point was still in his mid twenties.

In 1991, Babcock made the jump to the WHL, and took over the Moose Jaw Warriors for two years. While he went back to the school ranks temporarily to win a CIS championship with the University of Lethbridge, he returned ot major-junior to coach the Spokane Chiefs, where he put up a 0.564 winning percentage over six years.

From there, he took the next step up the latter, joining the AHL’s Cincinatti Mighty Ducks in 2000/01. He spent two seasons with them, bringing them to the playoffs in both, before finally reaching the NHL as Anaheim’s bench boss. Babcock’s first legacy-creator came in his sophomore NHL season. While Jean-Sebastian Giguere’s heroics were the driving factor, good coaching definitely helped his team make a 15-6 playoff push that lead them all the way to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. He stuck with the team until the 2005 lockout, at which point he replaced Dave Lewis in Detroit. 

Since then, Babcock has taken a team that everybody expected fade off into the sunset and helped them remain perrenial powerhouses. In his time there, Babcock has won more games than any other coach in Red Wings history, and taken the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in back to back years; winning in 2008.

Babcock has shown spectacular success at the international level as well, coaching the Canadian Men’s Olympic Team to Gold Medals in 2010 and 2014, and winning a World Championship in 2004. Babcock is the only person to enter the “Triple Gold Club” as a coach.

Babcock’s reputation as a coach aligns perfectly with several “new MLSE” philosophies, including an emphasis on puck possession, raw talent, game theory, and team building. 

What’s Next?

It’s going to be interesting to see what the next step is. For one, how does Babcock set up this roster? After all, this is a coach who has a history of winning and making competitive teams into better teams. The Leafs apsire to reach this plateau, but truthfully are quite a ways away from making it happen. In the mean time, I’m sure he’ll be essentially locking himself in a room with his eyes peeled on as much video as he can possibly find. 

Also, the Leafs have to hire a GM. Typically, that comes first, but there aren’t very many general managers in the National Hockey League that would pick a coach not named Mike Babcock. That GM also has a draft to take care of in a month, some trades to work on, and free agency. Needless to say, a huge hurdle was crossed today, but there’s lots of work to be done.

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  • Derian Hatcher

    Wow! The Leafs have the best coach in hockey! I think that we can now reasonably believe that Stamkos and/or Tavares will come here as well. Plan the parade! If the management and the coaching staff stay in place for the next 5 years we will win the Cup.

  • MatsSundin#13

    I reflect upon most of the great comments however I believe it is a moot point thinking Kessel, Phaneuf, JVR, Bozak, Lupul and even Gardiner, Kadri and others will be Leafs by the beginning of the 2016 season.
    ***Deep and cleansing breath, I wear my JVR jersey with pride***

    Read between the lines to what Babcock and Shanahan said.
    “There is going to be pain” and “we are building something the right way” and “Hunter gets players”
    The only way to stock the cupboard is to trade assets for draft picks/A prospects and though Babcock might be able to teach Kessel to check and stop his Krispy Kreme diet, the massive personnel changes that will be made to the team are necessary. The players on current roster who played and collapsed in the Boston series have a fragile psyche that is evident every time something on the ice goes wrong… They fall apart. Instead of using the collapse as a learning experience and build character, Carlyle coached like he was walking on eggs and his players followed his example.
    The pain they were referring to is not only about wins, losses, losses and more losses, it is about clearing out many fan favorite players for possibly less than their perceived value so Shanahan, Babcock and the rest of the new management and coaches can instill an ethic of hard work, winning and success with a new group of younger players not locked into a losing culture.

    When Babcock stands behind the bench of a team that gives 110% effort every game, and win or lose, the players will hold their heads up with pride, the media will become a much friendlier beast… I can dream can’t I?

    So Leaf fans, it is a great day, We finally have a competent captain steering the ship, it is time to sit back, and enjoy the trip. It will be a long arduous journey with plenty of stormy sea’s however in the end we shall see blue skies and sunshine.

    If you have read my other posts, you will know I think that many Toronto sports writers are a like bad circus act, you know you are reading pathetic drivel, but you can’t look away. I love that Shanahan is running his organization behind closed doors rather than in the media… 24 hours before Babcock signed, McKenzie, Dreger and the majority were reporting Leafs were out of the sweepstakes and discussing what coaches they should pursue next?
    *When they trade Kessel they should toss in Simmons and Feschuk for a 6th round pick or a new Zamboni driver*