Mike Babcock is now taking his coaching talents to Toronto.
The team announced the hiring of Babcock on Wednesday afternoon, ending months of rumors and talks on where he would land next. He will be introduced later today.
The veteran coach cashed in after being one of the most coveted coaching candidates in hockey. According to various reports, he received an eight year deal worth a jaw dropping $50 million. If numbers are true, it would make him the highest paid coach in the league.
His contract with the Red Wings doesn’t end until June 30, but they gave him permission to talk with other teams on May 8.
With the surprising hire, the Leafs now have to send a third round pick to the Red Wings as compensation.
The veteran coach leaves a Red Wings franchise that has been successful for a while, reaching the playoffs for an NHL-leading 24 consecutive seasons to a team that has disappointed and is the total opposite of Detroit. The Leafs missed the playoffs last season and have made it just once the last ten years.
Their fans have been waiting for a Stanley Cup since 1967. In the other hand, the Red Wings have won four times in 18 years.
The coach has been pretty successful with other teams, helping Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014. He also had a short but good stint with Anaheim.
He brings experience and stability to a franchise that has had four coaches in nine years. The Maple Leafs were looking for a new coach after firing Randy Carlyle back in January. He was replaced for a little bit by assistant Peter Horachek, but now they have their full time coach.
His decision has surprised people around the league, because just last week he said that he hated losing and wanted to be part of a franchise that had all the pieces to win right away.
Roster and Shanahan
The Maple Leafs don’t have that right now, their roster is overpriced and aging. They also have a little problem at the goaltending position. Last season, the team crumbled after having a 19-9-3 record in mid-December, they closed with another disappointing season 11-35-8 to finish 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference standings.
Not everything is bad for the new member of the Leafs, he will be reunited with Brendan Shanahan, who took the presidency of the team last year. He played for Babcock in the team he just left.
This signing is a big win for Shanahan, who in just one year has fired general manager Dave Nonis, coach Carlyle, interim Horachek and several assistants and scouts. “I’m proud of Shanny, I’m proud that he dreamt big,” Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Tim Leiweke said. “He got the big whale. …
“It should give everyone great hope about the future of this organization. Mike Babcock is a phenomenal coach, and I think we’re really lucky to get him.”
Other Teams Interested
Before making the surprising decision, the veteran coach had been in talks with other teams, including the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks. The Sharks were told two days ago that they were out of the race for the coach, while the Sabres were told yesterday, according to what the club sources told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun.
He had also had talks with the Red Wings about staying, but in the end he chose to leave the franchise he had spent the past ten seasons with. It is said that their final offer was around $4 million per year.
Holland, the Red Wings general manager, told reporters that Babcock called yesterday morning to tell him about his decision. Holland thanked him for his time with the team. “My offers last June were a four-year term. Again in January, it was a four-year term,” Holland said. “As we sat yesterday morning, I said, ‘Mike, the best I can do is five years.’ When you’ve been in the same city as long as I have, and as long as Mike has, you don’t get much longer term than four and five years. So I think that certainly part of the decision-making process probably for Mike was the amount of term that he could get in Toronto.”
Now the Red Wings have to look for a coach, and rumors say that Jeff Blashill, the team’s AHL coach in Grand Rapids, is a leading candidate to take over the position. Holland added that they only have two or three candidates listed. Blashill has been pretty successful with the Grand Rapids Griffins, leading them to the Western Conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs for the second time in three years.
It looks like the Red Wings have their eyes set on Blashill, after not allowing him to interview with other teams, unlike Babcock.
Babcock started off his NHL coaching career with a great season back in 2002-03, when he took Anaheim deep in the playoffs and fell one game short of winning the Stanley Cup. He then joined the Red Wings after the 2004-2005 lockout.
The veteran coach has set multiple records by winning at least 50 games in each of his first four seasons with an NHL team and is also number one on the Red Wings all time wins ranking.