Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Geoff Lowe of Sportsnet,
After coaching in the NHL for 19 straight seasons, Wilson hasn’t been behind the bench since 2012 when he was fired by the Maple Leafs after three-plus seasons in Toronto. After that stint in T.O., the newest coach of the United States National junior team is all too familiar with the pressures that come with the gig.
So what advice would Wilson offer new Leafs coach Mike Babcock?
“I’d just tell him what you have to worry about is keeping everything as tight and as close as you can,” Wilson said on Tuesday’s Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “He’s got to make sure the players communicate with the media, that’s the biggest problem they have in Toronto.”
The overload of media attention is just one of the many things Babcock will be facing as he begins his tenure with the Blue and White. Another is dealing with the team’s core of players — most notably captain Dion Phaneuf and top forward Phil Kessel — a group that struggled mightily over the final weeks of 2015-16 regular season.
“I think they’re going to have to make an adjustment to how Mike (Babcock) demands accountability from everybody,” Wilson answered when asked which players will struggle under Babcock. “And I think anybody who’s a little leery of that might struggle.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The template for Brendan Shanahan is found right here — in the rosters, methods and good fortunes of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the building of an eventual champion, Tampa Bay Lightning.
They didn’t become contenders without first bottoming out, without cashing in on early draft picks, without utilizing their American Hockey League teams to develop talent, without strategically using free agency to finalize spots and touch up the roster and without patience.
Lots of patience.
“We didn’t really set a timeline on it,” said Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Lightning, talking about his five-year run on the job.
“I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position of a time-frame because then I’d be held to it.
“We just felt at the time we’re going to try to draft well, look to free agency where we can to try to expedite the process a little bit.
from Joe McDonald of ESPN,
Nathan Horton has his good days and his bad days.
On Friday, he’s celebrating his 30th birthday with family and friends, and his wish is to some day be healthy enough to resume his NHL career.
Horton has been dealing with a degenerative back injury that has kept him sidelined since April 2014. He missed all of last season and the Columbus Blue Jackets traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 26 in exchange for forward David Clarkson.
“Yeah, I’m doing all right. I’m living my life,” he told ESPN.com. “Obviously, my back’s not great but I have my good days, and some OK days. I’m just taking it easy. Eventually it’s going to go away -- I hope. I’m just enjoying my life. I’m healthy and I’m happy. It’s obviously tough because I want to play. It’s only my 30th birthday today, so I know I’m still young. Life gives you curveballs and I’m just trying to be positive and that’s pretty much all I can do.”
from Scott Feschuk of Sportsnet,
“You don’t win without good people, and we’re going to have good people.”
Surely it was a surreal experience for current Leafs players to listen to Babcock’s remarks. He rarely spoke more than a couple dozen words before circling back to his key message: The Leafs, as currently constituted, bite the big one. He really rubbed their faces in it: “Long journey . . . a hard spot . . . there’s pain coming . . . massive, massive challenge.” One can only imagine what players were thinking.
Dion Phaneuf: “I better get to the gym!”
Nazem Kadri: “I better start packing my bags!”
Phil Kessel: “Man, this hammock is super comfy!”
Babcock has the intelligence and fortitude to ignore the copious din that will surround him. He might be the only man in the world who can effect change in Toronto, if he is allowed to do his job. Perhaps, the Leafs will break from their history, and actually let him do it.
-Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch where you can read more on Mike Babcock and the Leafs.
Defenseman Cody Franson, who played almost four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded in March, said Saturday that free agents, like himself, will find the team more attractive now that it's coached by Mike Babcock.
"I definitely think it makes [Toronto] more interesting," Franson told TSN 1050 Radio. "... Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it's an exciting time for people in that organization and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure."
Franson will be a free agent July 1 after finishing the season with the Nashville Predators. He said he would like the chance to return to Toronto.
"One hundred percent; I've always said that I loved it in Toronto," the 27-year-old said. "... I'm hopeful that Toronto's in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they're one of the teams that calls."
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly agrees that players would choose to sign with Toronto to play for Babcock, who was hired Wednesday.
"When you have a coach like Mike Babcock, your team improves automatically," Rielly told the Toronto Sun. "Players will want to come to play in Toronto and really embrace the role of playing for the Leafs. … We're happy to have him on board."
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province,
During the course of a casual conversation a few years back, Marc Crawford was asked if the impact of an NHL coach could be measured in wins and losses.
Turned out Crawford had given this subject some thought. Without a lot of hesitation, the veteran hockey man said: “It’s seven to eight points a season.”
So there you go, Leafs fans. Your team just paid $50 million for a new coach and, if everything goes right, they’ll improve from 68 to 76 points next season. Surely that must be worth three hours of discussion on the panel.
The Leafs, of course, have become the newest test case for one of hockey’s enduring questions: Does a coach really make that much of a difference? In signing Mike Babcock to a groundbreaking eight-year, $50-million deal, they certainly made coaches all over the NHL happy. But is Babcock the man who can end half a century of misery in The Big Smoke? Can he, through his mere presence, alter the course of this cursed franchise?
You have to admit, it’s a helluva question. We just wish we could give you a helluva answer.
Both teams were among the NHL’s worst this season and have a lot of questions to be answered. Today, you can’t accurately say either is absolutely on the right track, and in Toronto, Babcock has predicted “pain” for the near future. Both teams have owners who appear to be committed, but don’t have a track record of winning.
How they build and develop their respective organizations will determine whether the pieces they already have turn into anything at all, and whether Babcock made the right choice or blew it by choosing not to shuffle off to Buffalo.
-Damien Cox of Sportsnet on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Read more on this topic from Cox.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Mike Babcock did nothing but win in Detroit. He won without high draft picks. He won without large free-agent signings. He won without all-star goaltending.
He won — or better put, the Red Wings won — partly because of elite talent such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg — and moreso because the organization under general manager Ken Holland understood and fostered player development in a way few franchises ever have.
The model is there for the Maple Leafs.
It is Holland’s model with Jimmy Devellano’s signature on it and a clear mandate from management and coaching: Every spot on a team is earned.
Every player is developed with a sense of patience and logic.
There is a clear and unwavering plan that never changes.
The kind of plan Brendan Shanahan keeps referencing without much explanation.
The model to follow is partly Detroit, partly Tampa Bay for Shanahan’s Maple Leafs. It is not coincidence that Steve Yzerman is running the Lightning. It is not coincidence that Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin in Dallas. It is not coincidence that Todd McLellan is the new coach of the Oilers and Jeff Blashill is likely the new coach in Detroit and Paul MacLean is a former coach of the year before he was let go in Ottawa.
All learned the Red Wing way. All became part of that family — and are still, in a way, part of that culture.
from the CP at TSN,
Mike Babcock took over as Toronto head coach Thursday, saying the Maple Leafs are Canada's team and they need to be put back on the map.
The 52-year-old Babcock, no stranger to coaching Team Canada, becomes the 30th head coach in Leafs' history.
Babcock said he was thrilled and excited to take the Toronto job. He cautioned the journey will be a long one, but promised it will be a lot of fun.
The former Detroit Red Wings coach takes over a 30-44-8 Leafs team that finished 27th in the league this season.
Babcock told the packed news conference in the foyer of the Air Canada Centre that he embraces the job ahead.
"I came here with my eyes wide open," he said.
Babcock made it clear that he is aware of the size of the task ahead and would have no problems operating in the fishbowl that surrounds the Leafs franchise.
"This is going to be a massive, massive challenge," he said.
added 1:23pm, Watch the full Babcock press conference below...
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