By the end of this week, we should have a pretty clear indication of what the Red Wings’ immediate future will hold.
Early in the week, the Wings will hold their annual pro scouting meetings, where all of their top brass will be together in the same place for the first time in weeks.
Many issues will be discussed and decided upon, such as which unrestricted free agents (Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen?) the team will heavily pursue, which of their own UFAs (Daniel Alfredsson) they’ll offer contracts to, and what type of player (a highly skilled forward) they’ll target in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, where the Wings have the 15th overall pick.
Although many of the Wings’ on-ice concerns will be mapped out, they’ll likely remain in the dark as to their biggest question: the status of head coach Mike Babcock.
Later this week or early next week, it’s expected that the Wings will announce that Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill has agreed to a contract extension, which will include a significant bump in pay.
Like Babcock, Blashill is in the final year of his deal, and the Wings want to keep Blashill around for two reasons: He’s a terrific coach, and just in case Babcock bolts at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Wings GM Ken Holland has been vocal about wanting to sign Babcock to an extension ASAP but admits that it’s really up to Babcock, who’s expressed many times how settled and comfortable he is in Detroit and yet has an opportunity of a lifetime waiting for him in less than a year.
As a free-agent coach, he’ll have his pick of any NHL job opening he wants, and the longer Babcock’s coaching future is up in the air, the stronger his negotiating power becomes.
The Wings want to get him under contract now for many years to come — especially to avoid it becoming a season-long distraction — and Babcock will certainly listen to what they have to offer.
However, the allure of something better has to exhilarating and tempting for Babcock. Everybody wants to be needed.
When Babcock and Holland meet this week, the Wings will have a much better indication of what Babcock’s thinking. They might not like what they hear — Babcock’s willingness to play it out — but with Blashill in the fold, they’ll have their next coach already in place for the long term.
It’s Detroit’s way: Always be prepared for anything.
Regardless of how this coaching saga eventually plays out, the Red Wings have a plan — with and without Mike Babcock.