Tag Archives: mike babcock

Holland secures the only candidate he wanted to fill coaching vacancy

DETROIT >> Jeff Blashill was quite frank when he met with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland a year ago.

“I told him if there was one team in the NHL I had an opportunity to coach it would be the Detroit Red Wings,” Blashill said.

Blashill got his wish.

In what Holland described as probably the “worst kept secret in recent Red Wings history,” Blashill was officially introduced as the franchise’s 27th head coach Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, replacing Mike Babcock, who left to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs after 10 seasons in Detroit.

“It’s probably unique,” said Blashill, who received a four-year deal which is one more year more than Holland has left on his deal. “I can tell you that I’m excited that I was the one that he chose. I think it’s unique in a sense that he’s had a chance to see me first hand. There didn’t even need to be an interview process I think. He’s seen what I do. It’s either what he wants or it’s not and in this case it was what he wanted and I’m thankful for that.”

Blashill, who was born in Detroit but grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, has been Holland’s choice to replace Babcock had he left for over year.

“No, no there wasn’t,” Holland said when asked if there were any other coaches he interviewed for the job. “I made my decision for the most part a year ago when we lost out to Boston and five teams called who wanted to interview Jeff about their opening.”

After spending one season as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit, Blashill has coached the Grand Rapids Griffins the past three seasons, leading them to the Calder Cup championship in his first season.

He was named the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2014.

“I’m big on development,” Holland said. “As fate would have it, (former Griffins coach) Curt Fraser got a job to be an assistant coach in Dallas and Blash was my first call. I told him there was an opening in Grand Rapids and asked if he wanted the job. He was my first choice. I gave him 24 hours and he called me back the next day and he took the opportunity to run Grand Rapids.”

Blashill, who led the Griffins to the Western Conference finals this year and compiled a 134-71-23 record there, will be the second youngest coach in the NHL at 41.

“A year ago I went to Blash and told him five teams had called wanting to talk to him,” Holland said. “I told him there was two ways we could go about it. We could let him interview and if he didn’t get a job he could come back or we could re-negotiate his contract. We negotiated a salary increase. We talked about the uncertainty of the Mike Babcock situation and I told Blash if we weren’t able to retain Babs he’d be my number one candidate.

“It’s a perfect time for Blash to take over our team,” Holland continued. “We’ve had a fabulous run with Mike Babcock for 10 years and I’m hoping the decision we made here is a decision that will have a good run for several years.”

Blashill has coached many current Wings, including 10 players he coached in Grand Rapids that appeared in the playoff series against Tampa Bay this year.

“I don’t think trust is anything you should take for granted, you have to earn and you earn it through your actions,” Blashill said. “I’ve coached almost all these guys on this team through some point. I think there’s trust, respect on both sides already so I think that helps me hit the ground running. I know lots of what makes a lot of these guys tick. You can’t treat everyone the same. You have to motivate each player differently and because there’s familiarity will allow that to happen in a more efficient manner.”

Blashill, who has also been an assistant coach at Ferris State and Miami University, guided Western Michigan to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 seasons his one and only year there, leading the Broncos to the CCHA tournament championship game.

In 2009, he was named head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice, a Tier 1 junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. In his only season there he guided the Ice to the championship.

“What we’re trying to do on the fly, and that’s the beauty of bringing in Jeff Blashill, is we’re trying to go younger, we’re trying to build a team here that we want to have some players that are going to be here for another five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years,” Holland said. “We’ve got a portion of the team turned over. We got some young people in Grand Rapids that he’s familiar with that are going to be banging on the door, so we got some tough decisions to make over the summer and into September. He knows the organization as well as anybody here. He’s dealt with a lot of our future in Grand Rapids the last three years.”

The Wings hope to have Blashill’s two assistants in place by next week.

Tony Granato could return if he’s able to work out a new deal.

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.

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.

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.

Babcock in ‘driver’s seat’ when it comes to where he’ll coach next season

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.