Regner: Best guess is Babcock stays in Detroit
The Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Randy Carlyle this week, which has led to the speculation that the road is clear for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to pack up his belongings and head up the 401 to become Toronto’s next coach.
That could be a possibility at the end of this season when Babcock becomes the NHL’s most coveted unrestricted free agent.
But as much as the Toronto faithful pine for Babcock, signs are beginning to emerge that he may just stay in Motown and spurn his beloved Canada.
Anybody that knows Babcock realizes that the single purpose in his life’s work is to win hockey games.
For years Detroit’s hockey press corps has joked that Babcock isn’t the complex individual that say, Scotty Bowman is, when in fact he’s pretty easy to figure out.
There are four things that Babcock cares about: family, faith, hockey and hunting. He is a devoted and principled man that has the intelligence to recognize that Detroit may just be his best option at this point in his career.
The Red Wings will make him the highest paid coach in the league, that’s a given. Babcock has established roots in Detroit and is extremely comfortable with his surroundings. He’s active in his church and in the community, has a deep friendship with Wings GM Ken Holland, and most importantly, he not only likes this current Detroit Red Wings team, but he’s also convinced it will only get better.
Babcock’s abrasive personality and arrogance have always grated on his players and many within the Wings organization, however he appears to be a different person this year.
He seems much more at ease and accommodating than he has at any other time during his tenure with the Wings. He’s much more reflective, introspective and has on occasion let his guard down when answering questions.
Babcock is less paranoid.
Paranoia is a trait all professional coaches have because it’s the nature of their job. Being under constant scrutiny coupled with the edict to win now produces extreme pressure, causing many coaches to feel that they’re only as good or bad as their last game.
Certainly, in Babcock’s case, the only pressure he feels to win is the extreme pressure he puts on himself. He’s also well aware that he holds all the cards in his current contract situation.
As for the Wings, a team official said they’re not concerned or worried about Babcock’s impending free agency.
"We’re not going to worry about Babs until mid-June," the official said. "Right now all we’re worrying about, including Babs, is winning hockey games and making the playoffs."
Four months ago, I would have told you Babcock is done in Detroit after this season. Today, I have convinced myself that he’s returning and will sign an extension after the conclusion of this season.
Babcock may not even hit the open market, even though he’s in the catbird seat.
He’s 10 years older than when he first arrived in Detroit and with age Babcock’s priorities have begun to shift. The unknown isn’t as appealing as it was before and as I’ve said, he enjoys Detroit; he has a good quality of life and will be rewarded with a substantial raise.
Plus he will be coaching a team that has somehow managed to rebuild itself on the fly and is filled with high-end prospects at every position.
Imagine being Babcock for a moment. The money is a non-factor. Toronto is a circus and a cesspool, while Detroit is a stable team that has been built in his image.