DETROIT >> Will he stay or will he go?
That’ll be the question lingering around Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings until a decision on his future is made either by the coach himself or the organization.
Babcock is scheduled to meet with general manager Ken Holland on Friday morning prior to the team photo and locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena.
Will a decision be announced after that?
That seems highly unlikely.
Babcock, who turned 52 on Wednesday, wants to weigh his options, and with coaches still in place at his possible landing spots, he can do that.
“He’s in the driver’s seat,” Holland said. “He’s one of the top coaches in the game, if not the top coach and he’s in the prime of his career.
“Our hope is that Mike wants to stay,” Holland continued. “He’s positioned himself to have the option to explore.”
His contract doesn’t expire until June 30, which means he can’t talk to any other teams until then. He’s searching for a deal that would pay him close to $5 million a season.
The only thing that would speed up the process is the Wings deciding to not give him a contract and pursue his replacement, which could come within the organization in Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill.
Babcock said after the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season Wednesday that he wasn’t going to discuss his future until he meets again with the media after locker cleanout.
He just wrapped up his 11th season in Detroit, earning roughly $2 million a season.
The Wings have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs since losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final in the 2008-09 season, the year after Babcock won his only Cup in Detroit.
They’ve also been eliminated in the first round three of the last four seasons.
“We want him back, I’ve expressed that,” Holland said. “He’ll have a lot of say in how it all plays out.”
Babcock wants to win.
He’ll be the first to tell you that.
“I just thought our team played hard and we gave ourselves an opportunity but you want to win,” Babcock said after the Wings’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7. “I want to win. In order to do that, you’ve got to score more goals and you got to find a way to win the series, bottom line right there but we didn’t get it done.”
And with that said, Babcock shed some light on how he perceives the Wings’ current roster and that their future looks like.
“I would tell you this, that our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said. “It was very evident we battled our butts off to get in the playoffs. They picked us, whether you guys know what you’re talking about or not, they picked us to miss the playoffs and then no one even picks us to win in the playoffs. I thought we gave (Tampa Bay) a real good run for their money to say the least.”
His main focus appears to be on the core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – which isn’t getting any younger.
“You are what you are and (the Lighting) have a young team that they were bad here for long enough that they were able to rebuild it,” Babcock said. “Good, young players and they’ve got young players in key positions. Three of our best players are 34, 35, 37, so any way you look at it, we’re a team that’s changed a bunch of players. We’re a team that’s added a lot of youth to the lineup. Right now on the outside they don’t pick us as a Stanley Cup contender.”
Datsyuk turns 37 in July, Zetterberg turns 35 in October and Kronwall turned 34 in January.
The Wings began the process of incorporating young talent and needed to do so rapidly because of injuries two seasons ago to extend their playoff streak.
They also have a number of highly talented players in the minors.
Babcock, who has led Canada to two straight Olympic gold medals, was offered a four-year deal in excess of $3 million a season that would have made him the highest paid coach in the league.
Babcock said if a deal wasn’t in place before the season began he would not discuss a contract until after the season.