Regner: Babcock rumors might be too hot for young Wings to handle

It would be difficult for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock not to at least see what's out there once his contract expires.

Eric Hartline/Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Get ready, boys and girls, the circus is in town and it promises to be a long run.

It’s a one-act spectacular in the center ring, and the star of our extravaganza is Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

Will he sign a contract extension with Detroit? Will Toronto president Brendan Shanahan somehow lure him to coach the Maple Leafs? Or will Babcock end up with the Penguins because he longs to coach Sydney Crosby?

As far as rumors go, it appears that Pittsburgh will clean house, and its top pick to coach the underachieving Penguins is … Mike Babcock.

Well, I’ve got news for everybody. Until Babcock decides what he wants to do, he’ll be the name linked to every coaching job in the NHL.

Everybody wants Babcock, which must be one of the greatest feelings in the world.

On Thursday, I received a call from a colleague in Pittsburgh who asked me, "What’s the deal with Babcock coaching the Penguins? I’ve heard that they’ve already asked the Wings permission to talk to him."

My response was a simple one: "Babcock is an honest man, and when he said that he’s in Detroit next season because his daughter is a senior in high school, I believe him. End of story."

Then, my media compatriot told me that the Penguins want him so badly that they’re willing to hire a coach for a year and then pursue Babcock after next season, when his Detroit contract expires.

That would be a risky move for Pittsburgh, but it made me think that Babcock’s coaching status will be an ongoing storyline that will get old quickly within the Wings organization.

After all, it’s mid-May and "What Babcock will do next?" is already a hot topic of discussion.

Detroit will be a youthful hockey team next season, and trying to keep youngsters focused on an 82-game schedule is challenging enough. But throw in the constant barrage of "What’s next for Babcock?" could be a tough distraction for a young team to overcome.

What’s unfortunate about all of this is that none of it will be coming from the Wings or Babcock. As much as they want to control the message and concentrate on the season, outside sources will have a field day running with all the rumors, innuendo and speculation concerning Babcock’s future.

Of course, if the Wings and Babcock agree on an extension, all of this budding mass hysteria will quickly go away. But it’s not that easy.

Babcock has worked his way up through the coaching ranks to put himself in a very good situation. It would be difficult for him not to at least see what’s out there once his contract expires.

The Red Wings want to somehow keep Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill in their organization, and if Babcock plays out the sting with the Wings, Blashill is the right and logical choice to step in behind the bench.

Last week, I wrote that the Wings and Babcock are completely OK with letting next season play out before they talk about a contract extension. Although I still believe that, it might not work out that way.

With all the gossip and buzz surrounding Babcock already, he and the Wings might not have the luxury of putting this highly anticipated outcome on the back burner. It’s just too hot.