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Mike Babcock: ‘It’s a career decision’

DETROIT >> In the end it came down to a new opportunity and a new challenge when Mike Babcock made his choice to leave from behind the bench he called home for the last 10 seasons.

And it wasn’t an easy one for him.

“Oh, it’s going to be hard,” said Babcock, who fought back tears numerous times addressing the media one last time Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “I have a burning desire to win. Winning where I’m going is going to be different. The immediate gratification thing that I’m used to every game day that I love is going to be hard. Yet, there’s a big plan there. They’ve made a big commitment, a long-term commitment to me. I’ve made a long-term commitment to them.

“We’re going to go grow that franchise,” Babcock continued. “The guys have already told me they’re happy to lay the boots to us when they play us. They already told me that. But what we’re going to do is we’re going to build a franchise that people of Toronto can be proud of.”

Babcock, 52, was named the Toronto Maple Leafs coach on Thursday and became the highest paid NHL coach – $50 million over eight years – in the process.

Detroit’s final offer to Babcock, who made $2 million last season, was $4 million for each of the next five seasons. The offer the Wings general manager Ken Holland made prior to that was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season.

“I didn’t want more than five years with Kenny,” Babcock said. “You already knew what you had here. When you’re going to these other places and they’re setup the way they are you needed more term. You needed more commitment. I even said to Kenny at one time just give me three. I wasn’t concerned about that at all. In the end what happened I think two pretty good friends sat down and talked it out. He’s my advisor too. In the end I had to make a decision.”

The Leafs, who have won 13 Stanley Cups, that last of which came in 1967, last made the playoffs in 2013, losing in the first round to the Boston Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The last trip to the postseason prior to that was 2004.

“It’s a career decision,” Babcock said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in my life chasing a dream thinking you can make it happen and it’s worked out thus far. Don’t get me wrong I love it here, but I also think it was time for me.”

The Leafs, who have the fifth and 24th overall picks in this year’s draft, finished 27th in the overall league standings last season.

“I wanted a different challenge and when I got it in my head I’m coaching an Original Six franchise, the model of the NHL, if I’m going to leave I have to go to an Original Six franchise,” Babcock said. “I went back and forth on it 100 times. I probably wore Kenny out being a pain in the butt and I know I wore my family out. It was gut-wrenching. As much of it is emotional for me right now I felt (Thursday) like I was 25. I was jacked up, scared to death. Only time will tell. I believe you put your foot on the gas and go get it and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Babcock, who leaves as the Wings’ all-time winningest coach, took over a winning organization and helped maintain its success.

He guided Detroit to winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and then reached Game 7 of the Cup finals the following year. He’s also the only coach to guide a team to the playoffs every year in the salary-cap era.

Babcock said he spoke with the Wings’ core players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and left a message for Niklas Kronwall.

“I don’t think the young guys needed it,” Babcock said when asked if the team needed a new voice. “I love those guys. I’m going to be friends with those guys forever. When Pav goes home one day and sets up his sports school, I’m going to go help him. They’re great men. You don’t win as a coach without great players and great leadership. They provided me an opportunity.

“When I talked about the age of Z and Pav and Kronner at the end and the new guys coming and they’ve got to do it,” Babcock added. “That’s what those guys did for this franchise for 10 years. They’re great people. Do they need a new voice? Ask them. The way I look at it is I’m proud when I walk out of here knowing that, one of the teams I talked to showed me that we averaged 106.4 points over my 10 years here and that we played 23 playoff rounds, both the most and the only team to make the playoffs (all 10 years).”

The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t made it out of the second round of the playoffs since 2009.

Babcock pledges to build Cup contender in Toronto

DETROIT >> Mike Babcock has never minced words when it comes to his need to win.

Now Babcock’s biggest desire will turn into what could be a very long process after he was officially named the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Thursday afternoon.

“I never came here to make the playoffs,” Babcock said during his press conference. “I came here to be involved in a Cup process. That goes from scouting, to drafting, to development, to analytics, from putting an off-ice team together, putting an on-ice team together.

“I love to win,” Babcock continued. “I have a burning desire to win, but I also want to win in the end. I don’t want to just get in the playoffs. We want to build a team that the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be proud of.”

The Leafs, who have won 13 Stanley Cups, that last of which came in 1967, last made the playoffs in 2013, losing in the first round to the Boston Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The last trip to the postseason prior to that was 2004.

“When you win every day it becomes pretty safe for the players,” Babcock said. “Right now it’s a hard spot. It’s tough. We’re going to change that, but it’s going to take time. As a coach you’re in the day-to-day winning business. I’ve been in it a long time. On game day I’ll be short sighted for sure, but I’ve got a big picture in mind. But if you think there’s no pain coming … there’s pain coming.”

The Leafs, who have the fifth and 24th overall picks in this year’s draft, finished 27th in the overall league standings last season.

“Fear I think is a great thing,” Babcock said. “It’s about being alive. At 52 I’m not ready to die. I want to get on with it here. I made a long term commitment to the Leafs and our plan is to grow the team.”

Babcock also became the highest paid coach – $50 million over eight years – in the NHL in the process.

“The contract is simply a commitment from the Maple Leafs to success,” Babcock said. “They made a long-term commitment to me, so I understand totally they’re committed to the process.”

All signs on Tuesday pointed to Babcock heading to Buffalo. That changed when Toronto and the Wings rejoined the process.

“I talked to lots of teams,” Babcock said when asked if he used Buffalo to leverage his bargaining position with other teams. “When you’re talking to teams negotiating is in that process. The hardest thing for the media to do was to figure out where I was going because I had no idea where I was going. It was a hard decision. We changed our mind … not a change of mind we went back and forth so many times (about) the right thing was to do.”

Detroit’s final offer to Babcock, who made $2 million last season, was $4 million for each of the next five seasons. The offer the Wing made prior to that was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season.

“That lying word is an interesting word for me,” Babcock said when accused by a reporter of lying to the Sabres. “I’ve been in the public eye for a long, long time. I don’t think that goes anywhere near who I am or what I’m about. I’ve been real straightforward and honest in the process with all the teams I talked to and with my ownership. I just worked for 10 years in Detroit, as a head coach you don’t work in places for a long time unless you have good relationships and you treat people right. So that would be the end of that for me.”

The Wings will get a third-round pick during the next three seasons as compensation for Babcock, whose contract was set to expire on June 30, signing with Toronto.

“I embrace this opportunity of coaching the Maple Leafs,” Babcock said. “I came here with my eyes open and I understand totally what’s going on. I went through a process of I don’t know how many days to figure this out. In the end I made the right decision and I’m excited about it.”

Babcock’s the only coach to have guided a team to the playoffs every season of the salary-cap era.

However, the Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t 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.

Babcock hits the jackpot in Toronto, getting $50 million over eight seasons

DETROIT >> The Mike Babcock coaching era in Detroit has officially drawn to a close.

And his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs will begin.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Babcock will be announced as the new coach for the Maple Leafs, inking an eight-year deal worth $50 million.

Toronto got into a bidding war with the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday.

The Wings also drove up their final five-year offer to Babcock, 52, to $4 million a season.

Babcock, who’s under contract until June 30, has been Detroit’s coach for the last 10 seasons.

Detroit will get a third-round pick during the next three seasons from Toronto has compensation.

The Wings have been the only team in the salary-cap era to reach the playoffs every season, all under Babcock.

However, the Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t 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.

Four teams asked the Wings permission to speak with Babcock – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.

Babcock wanted to go to a team that would be an instant contender and with a young core group.

Toronto has none of that.

The Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups, but the last came in 1967.

The Leafs last made the playoffs in 2013, losing in the first round to the Boston Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The last trip to the postseason prior to that was 2004.

Toronto also doesn’t have a general manager in place.

Babcock does know Toronto president Brendan Shanahan, who played under him for one season in Detroit.

He could also have more player control than he had in Detroit, but it’s not known how much.

Toronto does have the fifth and 24th overall picks in this year’s draft.

Babcock saw Detroit’s core – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.

“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “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.”

Detroit’s last contract offer to Babcock prior to the Wednesday was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.

Detroit’s next coach will be Jeff Blashill.

Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.

Detroit gave Blashill a hefty raise last summer to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.

Blashill, who led the Grand Griffins to the Calder Cup title in 2013 and has them in the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.

Mike Babcock won’t return behind the bench in Detroit

DETROIT >> The Mike Babcock coaching era in Detroit has officially drawn to a close.

A number of NHL insiders, the last of which was Kevin Allen of USA Today, confirmed through sources that Babcock would not be returning behind the Red Wings bench.

As to where he’ll end up is still not known.

All signs point to Toronto after Buffalo and St. Louis had pulled their names out of the Babcock sweepstakes.

The Maple Leafs got into a bidding war with the Sabres Wednesday.

The Wings also drove up their final five-year offer to Babcock, 52, to $4 million a season.

Babcock, who’s under contract until June 30, has been Detroit’s coach for the last 10 seasons.

The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t 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.

Four teams asked the Wings permission to speak with Babcock – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.

Babcock wanted to go to a team that would be an instant contender and with a young core group.

Babcock saw Detroit’s core – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.

“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “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.”

Detroit’s last contract offer to Babcock prior to the Wednesday was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.

Detroit’s next coach will be Jeff Blashill.

Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.

Detroit gave Blashill a hefty raise last summer to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.

Blashill, who led the Grand Griffins to the Calder Cup title in 2013 and has them in the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.

UPDATE: It appears it’s Sabres or Wings for Babcock

DETROIT >> Mike Babcock has brought up numerous times that young, up-and-coming teams have been bad for so long that they’re able to build contending teams with high-end talent through the draft.

The Wings’ coach for the last 10 seasons could be heading to one of those teams, the Buffalo Sabres, as early as Wednesday.

The Associted Press is reporting Babcock is negotiating a deal by phone with Buffalo.

Babcock met with Wings general manager Ken Holland on Tuesday and was expected to talk to his family before revealing his decision Wednesday.

Four teams asked the Wings permission to speak with Babcock – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.

Three of those teams don’t appear as good fits for Babcock, who is under contract until June 30, for a few reasons.

The Leafs are in the midst of a long rebuilding process.

The Sharks have a similar aging core like Detroit has.

Despite the Blues having a roster that gives Babcock a much quicker path to winning a Stanley Cup, he’s reluctant to be the guy to replace his close friend, Ken Hitchcock, behind the bench.

The Sabres don’t have a roster that Babcock was looking for, a team that could contend immediately for a Stanley Cup, but they have a system loaded with talent because of drafting high for some time.

That’s a young core that Babcock doesn’t see the Wings have.

Babcock, 52, sees Detroit’s core – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.

“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “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.”

Buffalo has the second and 21st overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

The Sabres are expected to select center Jack Eichel, who played for Team USA at the World Championships along with Wings prospect Dylan Larkin, with the second pick.

The Sabres have had high picks in each of the last four drafts.

Last year, Buffalo had the second pick and took center Sam Reinhart.

The year prior, the Sabres had two first round picks and nabbed two defensemen – Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall) and Nikita Zadorov (16th overall).

They also had two first round picks in 2012 taking a pair of centers – Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall) and Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall).

Buffalo owner Terry Pegula appears willing to pay more – $5 million a season that could increase by meeting incentives – than what the Wings have offered.

Pegula also whisked Babcock into Buffalo on a private jet on May 9 so he could tour their facilities.

Detroit’s last contract offer to Babcock was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.

There’s also a comfort level Babcock would have in working for general manager Tim Murray, who was the director of player personnel Anaheim where he coached for two seasons.

If Babcock decides to leave Detroit’s next coach will be Jeff Blashill.

Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.

Detroit gave Blashill a hefty raise last summer to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.

Blashill, who led the Grand Griffins to the Calder Cup title in 2013 and has them in the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.

The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t 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.

Four teams have asked permission to speak with Babcock; Blashill will be team’s next coach if he leaves

DETROIT >> Mike Babcock’s options to coach next season are down to five.

A source confirmed Sunday that four teams have asked and signed the compensation letter to speak with Babcock about coaching next season – Buffalo, Toronto, San Jose and St. Louis.

If Babcock decides to sign with another team the Wings will get a third-round pick during the next three seasons from his new club.

Babcock has met Buffalo and Toronto at the World Championships in the Czech Republic and is expected to meet with the Sharks either Monday or Tuesday.

It’s believed he’s also meet with the Blues at the tournament.

Two other teams that were thought to be in the Babcock sweepstakes – Edmonton and Philadelphia – did not ask for permission to discuss employment.

The Wings’ last contract offer to Babcock was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.

Babcock could get close to $5 million a season from the Maple Leafs or Sabres.

An increased offer by the Wings seems unlikely to match that kind of money.

The Wings offered Babcock, who’s spent the last 10 seasons in Detroit, a contract last June that he didn’t accept.

They came back with that second offer in January, but Babcock wanted to wait until the playoffs were over to discuss matters.

A decision from Babcock will come this week sometime and could be as early as Wednesday.

If Babcock decides to sign with another team Detroit’s next coach will Jeff Blashill.

Three teams have asked the Wings permission to speak with Blashill, which they promptly denied.

Detroit gave Blashill a hefty last summer to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.

Blashill, who led the Grand Griffins to the Calder Cup title in 2013 and has them a win away from reach the conference finals this year, is making double of what the average American League Hockey coach gets paid.

Babcock has also focused on the Wings’ core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.

“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “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.”

Both Toronto and Buffalo are rebuilding.

San Jose has a similar aging roster like the Wings.

St. Louis’ roster gives Babcock, who just finished his 10th season in Detroit, a much quicker path to winning a Stanley Cup.

The Wings have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t 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.

Babcock’s contract expires with the Wings on June 30.

Decision on where Babcock will coach next season should come next week sometime; ahead of Holland May 25 deadline

DETROIT >> A decision on where Mike Babcock will take his coaching talents next season could be coming sooner rather than later.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview from the Czech Republic where he’s watching the World Championships, a decision could come as early as late next week.

“Mike said he expected to have a decision way before May 25,” Holland said. “From our perspective, the sooner the better, if he stays we can get on with other things. If he leaves we can start the process to finding a replacement.”

May 25 is the soft deadline Holland imposed in case the Wings need to begin a search for a new head coach.

“Nothing has changed from my part,” Holland said. “We’re really waiting for Mike to talk to some teams and make a decision. I’m in a holding pattern.”

Holland did confirm that Babcock has met with some teams since teams that wanted to meet with him had to sign a compensation letter agreeing that the Wings would get a third-round pick during the next three seasons if they hire him.

The two teams that are known to have spoken with Babcock are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres.

Philadelphia and San Jose are the other teams that have coaching vacancies.

The Edmonton Oilers are also in need of a coach, but are reportedly set to hire former Sharks coach and Detroit assistant, Todd McLellan, once the World Championships conclude.

McLellan is coaching Canada.

Holland did shoot down a rumor out of Buffalo that Babcock had chosen to stay in Detroit.

“He hasn’t told me that and I’ve been with him every day,” Holland said. “He hasn’t given me a decision.”

Babcock’s contract expires on June 30.

After the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a third time in the last four seasons, Babcock laid out the two main factors that’ll help him make his decision – winning and family.

“My family wants to stay here, my wife and kids,” Babcock said prior to heading overseas. “The Wings have given me the opportunity to talk to other teams and I’m going to take advantage of it.

“Life is about making good decisions,” Babcock continued. “Sometimes the most comfortable time is when you have no decision. I’ve got a good GM, a great owner, they offered me an opportunity and I’m going to take advantage of that.”

Babcock and Holland sat down for an interview with TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger with the current Wings coach saying he’s, “done enough thinking.”

“It’s time to make a decision here pretty quick,” Babcock said. “I’m a big picture guy, but I’m also an immediate gratification guy, too, because I like winning.

“Is change important to invigorate you? I think about lots of things,” Babcock added.

The Wings offered Babcock, who’s spent the last 10 seasons in Detroit, a contract last June that he didn’t accept.

They came back with another offer in January, which is believed to be for four years and just over $3 million a season, but Babcock wanted to wait until the playoffs were over to discuss matters.

Babcock has also focused on the Wings’ core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – being up there in age.

“Our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “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.”