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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.”

All signs point to Babcock leaving Detroit

DETROIT >> From the sounds of things, Mike Babcock will not be coming back to the Detroit Red Wings.

Although nothing is official and nothing will become official until around the end of May, the writing of his departure has been on the wall since last offseason.
The Wings offered Babcock 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.

Then came Friday when general manager Ken Holland gave his coach for the past 10 seasons permission to begin talking to other teams about taking over for them behind the bench.

Babcock is trying to say all the right things.

“As soon as people heard that that first thing they think is ‘He’s long gone,’” Babcock said during a phone interview on Friday. “That’s so far from the truth it’s not funny.

“I’m going to gather information,” Babcock continued. “I’m going to the World Championships and I’m going to watch Dylan Larkin. I’m just going about what I normally do.”

Along with going to the Czech Republic to watch one of the Wings’ top prospects play for the United States, Babcock will be meeting with suitors for his services next season.

“To be honest, my family wants to stay here, my wife and kids,” Babcock said. “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 does a good job of laying down hints, many of which came this season, giving some insight as to how he views the Wings’ organization.

“I would tell you this, our team isn’t as good as it was,” Babcock said after Detroit was eliminated in seven games during the first round of the playoffs. “You are what you are and (Tampa Bay has) a young team. They were bad here for long enough that they were able to rebuild it. Good, young players and they got young players in key positions.”

His main focus appears to be on the core group – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – which isn’t getting any younger.
Datsyuk turns 37 in July, Zetterberg turns 35 in October and Kronwall turned 34 in January.

“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,” Babcock continued. “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.”

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 said after the loss in Game 7 that it was the “worst day” he’s had coaching in Detroit in his 10 season here.

“Was that because I thought in my heart we were going to win that series and we should still be playing, was that because of what’s coming? I don’t know the answer to that, but I just know that there’s a 24-hour rule in my house for sulking and I used all 24 hours,” Babcock said. “I see that we’ve got a whole bunch of kids here that need to not hope that they’re going to be a good player in the fall and get to work right now so they can be a good player.

“I think the majority of our growth needs to be from within because we need young legs,” Babcock continued. “We’ve got lots of it. We’ve got a lot of competition for jobs so that to me is more of a focus than free agency.”

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, continues to say his priorities haven’t changed. It’s still about winning and family.
“Those are the two most important things I’m leaning on,” Babcock said. “I’m walking through a sequence of events to make a decision.”

He added he’s not leaning one way or another.

“I’ll talk to teams that asked for permission and we’ll see what happens from there,” Babcock said.

And in the end Babcock will more than likely decide he’ll be coaching somewhere other than HockeyTown next season.

Wings won’t try and influence Dylan Larkin to turn pro

DETROIT >> While the Detroit Red Wings await a decision on whether or not coach Mike Babcock will return, they’re also waiting to hear on one from their one of their top prospects … Dylan Larkin.

Larkin will make it known sometime after the World Championships in the Czech Republic if he’ll return to the University of Michigan for his second season or turn pro.

And the Wings aren’t going to try and sway him either way.

“I’ve told Dylan we have no role in his decision,” general manager Ken Holland said prior to leaving to take in a few games at the tournament. “It’s different when your junior eligibility is over. Players in Europe and college want to know when they’re turning pro, like where they stand in the organization.

“It’s competition,” Holland continued. “If you don’t win that competition you go to Grand Rapids. I don’t believe in guaranteeing roster spots. My philosophy in player development is you’ve got to compete for a roster spot.”

In six games for the United States, Larkin has one assist with eight shots on goal and a minus-one rating.

“I think whatever decision he makes is a great decision,” Holland said. “Going back to Michigan for another year, playing with your age group is a positive. If he turns pro, there’s no doubt he can play at the AHL level. The question is can he play at the NHL level. You don’t know that until he gets to training camp in Traverse City. He’s still pretty young. The Detroit Red Wings will support his decision.”

The Waterford native was the unanimous winner of the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award, leading the conference’s first-year players in goals (15), assists (32) and points (47) in 35 games with the Wolverines.

He was second at Michigan in goals scored Zach Hyman and tied with him in assists. He did lead the team with 15 power play points (six goals) and with 151 shots on goal.

“He’s a good skater and can transport the puck,” Holland said. “He’s very competitive. He plays a 200-foot game. He back checks hard and he’s conscientious defensively.

“He needs to get physically stronger, like most young players,” Holland continued. “With strength you get heavier. He needs to put on weight and strength.”

Larkin, who’s a two-way center, is the Wings’ highest draft pick, selected 15th overall last year, since 1991.

“He can play the power play, penalty kill, four-on-four,” Holland said. “He can play in every different situation.”

It’s kind of uncommon for the collegiate players the Wings draft to leave the school after one season. Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Jimmy Howard all stayed three years.

Danny DeKeyser did as well, while Luke Glendening played four seasons at Michigan.

DeKeyser and Glendening both went undrafted.

“Some are ready sooner than others,” Holland said. “We’re not swaying him one way or the other. I like players to be mature and have a lot of experiences before they hit the NHL because the NHL is a tough league.”

Larkin had a very good World Junior Championships, leading the United States with five goals, seven points and a plus-seven rating.

“He’s a very good prospect,” Holland said. “I like his determination, his passion. He has the intangibles. He competes and doesn’t mind going to the hard areas. He’s got intangibles as part of his skills.

“When you’re building a team, you like to be strong down the middle,” Holland added. “We’re very pleased with the year he’s had.”

Holland playing it safe, letting Babcock talk to other teams so Wings aren’t caught late searching for a coach

DETROIT >> The first piece to solving who will be the Detroit Red Wings coach for the 2015-16 season has been placed.

However, it doesn’t bring the Wings any closer to figuring out who’ll be behind their bench next season.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland has given Mike Babcock permission to talk with other teams about possibly taking over as coach.

And that process could begin as early as this weekend when Babcock is in the Czech Republic taking in the World Championships.

“We want him back as our coach,” said Holland, who gave Babcock permission to talk to other teams while the two drove to Grand Rapids to watch the Griffins play last Sunday. “He would like the opportunity to explore any possibilities that are out there for him. Certainly we are a possibility.

“He has given us 10 great years behind our bench I feel that he’s earned that right,” Holland continued. “And at the same time his contract expires at the end of June, so he’s an unrestricted free agent per se in less than a couple of months. So I just think that in the best interest of Mike being able to see if we are the best situation for him, it’s best to give him an opportunity if teams call and ask for permission we are going to grant them permission.”

Holland told Babcock that he’d like his decision in the next two to three weeks or at the latest by the end of May.

“In the meantime, Mike and I will continue to stay in contact and then based upon how things go for Mike in his conversations with other teams we’ll see where it goes,” Holland said.

Holland said teams have been calling for permission to talk to Babcock since the Wings were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round.

“I want Mike here if Mike wants to be here,” Holland said. “That’s always been my attitude with players and with personnel. If there’s a better opportunity for you elsewhere then you probably should pursue it.

“I want Mike to be here because he thinks this is the best situation for him, for his family, for his career,” Holland continued. “He obviously knows everything about us. I still think we’re a legitimate candidate per se. I believe he’s happy. I believe he has lots of good feelings about being here.”

Toronto, Buffalo, Philadelphia and San Jose all have coaching vacancies. Others, including Edmonton, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, could open up spots now that Babcock is technically on the open market.

Holland wasn’t sure if Babcock, whose contract with Detroit doesn’t expire until June 30, would come back to the Wings to make a final offer if he’s found another suitor for him.

“I’m sure some things he might not be able to tell me and ultimately if he decides all of a sudden there’s some team out there is the absolute perfect fit for him then he might come back to me and say, ‘Ken, I think there’s a better fit out there,’” Holland said. “Or he could come back and we could continue to talk. I think we’re going forward. It’s going to have to play itself out as we go along and as Mike starts to talk to some teams.”

Teams that want to speak to Babcock must sign a letter of compensation agreeing to give the Wings a third-round pick over the next three seasons if they hire him.

Holland confirmed they offered Babcock 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.

The leading candidates to replace Babcock if he chooses to leave could be Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who was an assistant under Babcock for one season, or Todd McLellan, who was San Jose’s coach for the past seven seasons and an assistant under Babcock for three seasons.

Babcock is the winningest coach in franchise history and is the only coach to lead a team to the playoffs every season since the implementation of the salary cap.

“Certainly I understand the risk that when you grant somebody permission that we can wake down the road here in the next two or three weeks and we can find out there that Mike has decided to leave Detroit and go coach somewhere else,” Holland said. “In my opinion, that was going to happen anyway. There’s no use me just using this exclusive window until the end of June to kind of box him out that he can’t go anywhere.”

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.