Our NHL consultant shares his thoughts on the Maple Leafs recent hiring of Mike Babcock as their new head coach? Join us in reading this article and find out if Toronto is a value NHL pick next season.
Mike Babcock became a head coaching commodity immediately following his Detroit Red Wings being eliminated in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. His contract with Detroit expired at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 NHL campaign, and for lack of a better phrase, he became a free agent head coach. There was no shortage of interest for his services with Detroit, Buffalo, San Jose, and Toronto all in hot pursuit. Ultimately he turned down more money from Buffalo, and accepted the offer from the Toronto Maple Leafs to become their new head coach, something that could potentially influence the NHL betting odds market.
Why the Leafs?
Curiosity always abounds in the modern era of professional sports when an athlete or coach turns down more money from one team, and opts to go with another. Such was the case in the decision made by Mike Babcock to go with Toronto over Buffalo. When cornered for answers in regards to why he chose Toronto, the highly successful head coach responded with some straightforward answers that shed some light. First and foremost he cited family reasons, and felt going to Toronto was the right fit in that regards. Secondly he expressed desire in continuing coaching an “Original Six” franchise like he’s done for the previous ten seasons with Detroit. There’s also little doubt, the lure of being a head coach for one of the more storied and highly scrutinized franchises in NHL lore added to the appeal.
Clichés and Innuendos
When things take a dramatic turn for the worse like they did in Toronto this past season, a head coaching change is inevitable in the majority of instances. Popular clichés such as “changing the culture”, a different voice being needed”, and “we decided to go in another direction” are often associated with a decision to make such a change. More times than not those phrases are just a respectful way to express the dismissal of the current head coach, conveyed solely for media purposes only, and lack overall sincerity. However, in this particular case, the hiring of Babcock lends credence to that otherwise politically correct jargon.
Babcock heads to Toronto with a stellar resume that will automatically command respect in the locker room. In his ten seasons with Detroit, Babcock’s teams had an outstanding .649 regular season winning percentage, made the playoffs in each of those seasons, advanced to three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Finals, and captured the grand prize of them all in 2009.
One can make a valid argument that Babcock possessed teams with a plethora of talent in Detroit, and despite that luxury was able to win just one Stanley Cup. As a matter of fact, the Red Wings haven’t advanced to a conference final since 2009, and were just 25-30 during the previous six postseasons. Babcock also will be leaving an organization (Detroit) that did a tremendous job of developing their young prospects, and building from within. That won’t be the case in Toronto where patience is an afterthought, and risky quick fixes are more the norm than the alternative. In addition, Toronto hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two years, and has made just one postseason appearance since 2004. It’s not like he’ll be inheriting an ideal situation.
There’s no doubt whatsoever the Maple Leafs will be in good hands with Babcock behind the bench. However, I question whether the amount of money that was shelled out to retain his services will ever equate to value over the long run. For my NHL picks, I’d be willing to say that Toronto will be a better team during this upcoming 2015-2016 NHL campaign, and may even contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Anything more than that I find to be unrealistic and delusional. In order to make an accurate assessment on this hire and with all fairness to Babcock, I would give him at least three years to correct the mess that’s been amassed over the last decade.