The Malik Report
This morning's crop of Red Wings-related news involves "short takes," but this first item, from the Detroit News's Lynn Henning, is intriguing as it would change the broadcast landscape:
The former flagship station for Tigers and Red Wings radio broadcasts has re-emerged as a player in contract negotiations for 2016 and beyond.
Officials from WJR-AM (760), which carried Tigers and Red Wings broadcasts for decades ahead of their move to a statewide network of affiliates, are beginning conversations with Ilitch Holdings on a new relationship.
Also making a full-throttle bid to retain Tigers and Red Wings broadcasts will be CBS Radio, which owns current base stations WXYT-AM (1270) and The Ticket FM (97.1), the Metro Detroit powerhouses for a 39-affiliate, three-state network that won Tigers-Red Wings radio rights in 2001.
A third bidder also will be involved, sources say, and could raise the stakes on any new deal: Greater Media Inc., which owns three FM stations — WCSX, WRIF, and WMGC (which also carries Pistons broadcasts).
As Henning notes, having a sport air on a "news talk" broadcaster like WJR wouldn't be ideal from a programming format, but in terms of interviews, "News talk" and regular player/coach/etc. interviews works a little better (in theory).
Our second "news item" involves the Wings' follow-on rink and a somewhat surprising wrinkle, per MLive's Ian Thibodeau:
The Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with WGRZ-2 in Buffalo about Babcock today; the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan and Keith Gave are handicapping the Babcockian field, but the most interesting article of the "Monday evening news cycle" comes from the Globe and Mail's Cathal Kelly, who suggests--accurately--that much of Mike Babcock's appeal to teams has to do with Mike Babcock being himself:
Married to that golden [Olympic] shine is the way Babcock has about him. He just looks like an NHL head coach – scarred and square-jawed. Never underestimate what resembling the part has to do with filling the role.
He talks like a melange of old-timey Canadian stereotypes. He might’ve been pulled from a logging camp after doing a correspondence PhD. He’s homespun. He defers to his wife. He’s prickly, but never cruel. He’s as careful about showing up his employees as his employers. He’s smart, but careful never to come off as too smart. For the most part, he doesn’t say anything at all – which is the quickest way to convince people you’re a genius.
Maybe the easiest way to parse this out is contrasting Babcock with someone of similar accomplishment. Hey, Randy Carlyle’s not doing anything right now. Maybe forever.
Both men have one championship as a head coach. They have (very roughly) similar winning percentages. Carlyle was far and away the better player (he played in 1,055 NHL games; Babcock played in none). Both are as Canadian as ketchup chips.
However similar they are on paper – and though Carlyle has the better all-round hockey pedigree – no one would seriously compare the two.
Kelly continues, and while I don't exactly agree with everything that he says--including the suggestion that Detroit can offer Babcock, "More of the same, and therefore, more of nothing"--there's no doubt whatsoever that this is as much about Mike Babcock, man of coaching mystery as it is about the "best coach in the business," and that has everything to do with Mike Babcock's character, as well as the character Mike Babcock has become.
Updated at 1:58 PM: Babcock in Buffalo [edit: ad nauseam]. Puck Daddy handicapping the Babcock sweepstakes. All Babcock, all the time on Toronto sports talk radio. Todd McLellan scuttlebutt (via an Insider-only Custance article). Helene St. James saying that Babcock's asking for $4 million in salary.
Aside from MLive's Brendan Savage's question as to which player was the Wings' MVP, it's going to be "all Babcock" but not necessarily anything worth your time, so this entry is here for a simple reason: I want you to know that Paul and I are going to use our discretion to be cautious about all of this crap and not post every single damn article we see/hear.
About the only truly interesting thing that popped up comes from Maple Leafs Hotstove, which found former Wing and Columbus Blue Jackets goaltending consultant Manny Legace discussing Babcock's future with TSN 1050's Macko and Cauz, discussing his take on Babcock as someone's actual coach:
So we know that Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan flew to Detroit to meet with Mike Babcock on Saturday, and that Mike Babcock went to Buffalo on Sunday to meet with the Sabres. Mike Babcock is leaving for Prague today, and I'm sure that the reporters attending the World Championships will be paying very close attention to who Babcock stands with or meets with between Tuesday morning and Sunday the 17th.
This is the world that we live in--the Babcock Wining and Dining Era. I guess we live with it and hope for a resolution soon, because it's so far beyond crazy and innervating that it's...crazy. Again, some 13 months after the process started.
There's not that much else out there: aside from mentioning that Gustav Nyquist's goal against Ottawa is up against a Carter Hutton save in TSN's Play of the Year Showdown...
The Free Press's George Sipple spoke with Jonathan Ericsson about what can best be described as a mediocre 2014-15 season...
This is quite the prospect-related bummer: The Toledo Walleye rallied to tie Game 6 of their series against the Fort Wayne Komets 2-2 with only 19 seconds left in regulation, thanks to this Martin Frk goal (posted by Winging It in Motown's SlapShotgoal)...
But the Walleye ultimately gave up 56 shots to Fort Wayne and lost 3-2 in double overtime, which will yield a 7th and deciding game of the teams' second-round series this Wednesday in Toledo. Here's the Walleye's website's recap:
Updated with Babcock in Buffalo news at 9:56 PM: I stared at this article for a long time and tried to figure out what a conversation between Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney (a former Red Wings assistant) and the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones had anything to do with the Babcock sweepstakes--as opposed to simply suggesting that Mike Babcock might be a good fit in Edmonton--and this quote sort of jumped out at me. Renney suggests that Babcock isn't necessarily going to be a good fit just anywhere, and that there's a good reason for that:
“I think he’s in an envious position because he’s so successful. I think if he’s not the best coach in the world he’s in the top three or four guys for sure,” said Renney.
“The one thing is, the organization has to be ready for Mike and Mike has to be ready for it.
“Mike has been at one place a long time. And there’s a certain template there that has stood the test of time for a reason. Quite honestly, that’s with or without Mike. What Mike did was fit into it very, very well and place his own set of demands onto that whole program and make it as successful as it’s ever been.”
(i.e. the Red Wings' puck possession system of hockey and their post-lockout player development "program")
What does Renney think the odds might be of Babcock coming to Edmonton, especially now with the Oilers about to draft the next Wayne Gretzky in Connor McDavid?
“That’s a mitigating factor,” said Renney.
Jones continues, and again, I'm not sure that the story of how Tom Renney, former Hockey Canada CEO and now Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson and Babcock became associated with each other some eleven years ago is going to strike you as interesting, but it is intriguing to find someone suggest that Babcock isn't simply a miracle-worker.
And meanwhile, in the land of insanity...
I'm not going to make this BabcockWatch, but the Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur wrote a pretty dang good article describing the reasons he believes Babcock shouldn't go to Toronto, which he may or may not have visited yesterday, perhaps picking Buffalo, which he may or may not be visiting presently, or another locale:
[H]e shouldn’t come to Toronto. He might, one supposes — the Maple Leafs have permission to speak with Babcock, along with every relevant coach on their A-list, and the two sides reportedly spoke in Detroit Saturday. They will likely speak again. The Leafs could drive a dump truck full of money up to his house. Babcock’s craggy profile aside, he’s not made of stone.
But it would be crazy. Babcock’s stated list of priorities includes the voice he is given in the organization — not too much, but not too little — a chance to really win, and what his wife thinks. Add the salary, too. Maybe he can get the voice here, to a degree; the general manager title is vacant, and Babcock could be given input while Brendan Shanahan, and especially Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter and Brandon Pridham, do the majority of the work. His wife would probably enjoy the city, as long as she is not invested in sane and adequate public transit planning.
But the plan to win — yeah, there’s the problem. If Babcock wants to bite the bullet and work with a rebuilding team — which, since Detroit’s perennial playoff appearances haven’t sated him, is far short of automatic — then he could call Edmonton, or Buffalo, and work with either a generational player and some Hockey Canada confidantes, or with a young core filled with promise and GM Tim Murray, who helped get him to Anaheim. They’d need goalies, to start, and time.
No, the only thing the Leafs really have to sell, besides the forklifts loaded with money, is the challenge. Come on, Mike. You think you’re good? Nobody has been good with the Leafs, or good enough. If we build this thing the way we want to, it will offer the greatest reward of any job. Sure, our current players haven’t responded well to any coaches, but like you said of the Olympic team, anybody can be taught to check; you need scorers. Imagine if you turned Phil Kessel into Corey Perry. Imagine how good a coach you’d be considered then?
from Chuck Pleiness at the Oakland Press,
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.
I watched the Slovaks drop a 3-2 OT decision to Russia today, and I'm starting to wonder if Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco are plain old exhausted from the NHL season given their individual performances at the Worlds. Tatar continues to over-deke-and-dangle, commit turnovers and generally struggle to move the puck up ice without being his own worst enemy, and Jurco's been ineffectual at best as a 3rd-line center.
The Slovaks aren't exactly stacked, and the Russians put up stiff competition, but it was disappointing to watch Tatar semi-float and Jurco go at 80%, and at this point, the only way I can explain their performances is to suggest that a combination of physicla fatigue, mental fatigue and attempts to do far too much on their own yield the reasons why neither player's been a positive difference-maker for the Slovaks...
And instead, Tatar's ineffectual attempt to kind-of-sort-of check Vladimir Tarasenko before Tarasenko scored the game-winning goal was par for the course, with Tatar using one hand on his stick to sort of wave at Tarasenko as he slithered behind Tatar and fired a wicked wrister into the back of the net. Tatar got a late chance to un-tie the game late in the 3rd period, but it was a tight-in shot that he shanked. Tatar's admittedly not playing in a scoring role, but it's still disconcerting to see both the Tomases struggle to make a difference in prague.
Tatar took 2 shots and finished at -1 in 15:06 of ice time; Jurco didn't take a shot in 8:02.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman dedicated a significant portion of his "30 Thoughts" to Mike Babcock, and he handicapped some of the "contenders" for the coach's services--including the Red Wings:
THE TOP CONTENDERS: Detroit, Buffalo and Philadelphia
Until Saturday afternoon, I had Edmonton in this group. But they are making a pre-emptive strike (as mentioned, more on that to come.) For now, the Oilers are removed from this section.
There is a lot of skepticism from outside that Babcock will stay. You can certainly understand why, but it may come down to who decides to wait him out and who doesn’t. Ken Holland was travelling to the Czech Republic on Saturday, so he was unavailable to chat. The last Detroit offer was in January, and according to several sources, would have made Babcock the highest-paid coach in the NHL.
The Ilitch family — which threw $306M to Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez last season — is not afraid of wielding its financial might. Maybe they get outbid by someone else, but Babcock will be well-compensated if he stays.
Yes, a frustrated and disappointed Babcock wondered about the future of his franchise after the Game 7 loss to Tampa. But, when he looks around, will he see a more resourceful club than one that’s made the playoffs 25 years in a row?
Friedman continues at extended length, confirming that Jeff Blashill is the favorite to replace Babcock and discussing Babcock's other options...
Update: Who knows about this:
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