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My take on the Babcock situation, take 2

At this point, I don't know what my readers expect me to say or not say about the Mike Babcock sweepstakes, so:

1. It's hard for me to believe--biased or not biased--that some other team's prospects are head-and-shoulders above Detroit's, high draft picks included, after watching three Grand Rapids Griffins home playoff games. I've seen a full dozen prospects with NHL potential skating under Jeff Blashill's guidance, and even if the Wings have 3 20-goal-scorers and 3 second-or-third pair defensemen among that group, along with some strong support players, I have absolutely no worries about the Wings' post-Datsyuk-Zetterberg-and-Kronwall future...

But prospects are ALWAYS "Big Ifs." The same is true for the ultimate "upside" that Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Petr Mrazek can provide, but I like the Wings' chances.

2. To me, Jeff Blashill is the slam-dunk candidate to replace Babcock. Blashill's coached the vast majority of the Wings' current players either as an assistant at the NHL level or a head coach at the AHL level, and the only top prospect he has yet to coach in Grand Rapids is named Dylan Larkin.

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This morning’s Babcockian blather

This morning, the Buffalo News's Mike Harrington handicaps the Babcockian field, MLive's Brendan Savage offers a set of "Mike Babcock links" and Winging It in Motown's J.J. From Kansas does a fine job of explaining why the Red Wings are "at a crossroads" because none of the Wings' prospects appear to be ready to succeed Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or Niklas Kronwall...

But that was true when Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall didn't look like stars-in-the-making as Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom rounded their mid-30's curves, and as J.J. suggests, all is not lost...

Detroit isn't a dead team walking just yet. At least I don't think they are. Pavel Datsyuk has two more years on his contract and I believe he's capable of being a point-per-game dynamo through most of it. I have to admit I have less faith in Henrik Zetterberg's ability to be a dominant two-way center anymore, but I think he's more than capable of scoring from the wing and shutting down good players from the middle. Nyquist and Tatar are pacing pretty similarly to how Datsyuk and Zetterberg did at their ages; Riley Sheahan continues to impress while also showing a lot of room for improvement. Tomas Jurco can't possibly be as unlucky in the future as he was this year, and Teemu Pulkkinen is simply too powerful a goal-scorer to be kept quiet at the NHL level. Anthony Mantha had good production in a year that was called "very, very, very disappointing." Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet both look comfortable skating up ice against NHL level competition while Nick Jensen's development is coming along nicely.

Do these players have the ceiling to get the job done? That's something we won't know until they're fully tested. Is Mike Babcock the right coach to administer that test? I'm not so sure about that either. We're at a crossroads where the Red Wings' best hasn't been good enough. Mike Babcock will get the best out of whatever team he coaches, but if he can't make them a better team, it's time for a change.

That's where we come to the Globe and Mail's Cathal Kelly's, Detroit offers, "More of the same, and therefore, more of nothing" which is a staggeringly arrogant comment given that Detroit's "more of the same" include 10 straight post-lockout playoff appearances, a *#$%@& Stanley Cup, 2 Cup Final appearances and two most recent first-round knockouts which were treated as completely unacceptable...

And TSN's Dave Hodge also suggests that the Buffalos, Torontos, Edmontons and even Philadelphias don't offer a magical chance for Babcock to "do better," and as such, Hodge suggests that Babcock choose his future fate wisely:

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Let The Bidding Begin For The Wings’ Radio Contract

from Lynn Henning at the Detroit News,

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).

continued

added 10:00am, Oh geez, just saw George posted this earlier, sorry for the double post.

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The overnight report: On ‘broadcast partners,’ lists of lists and more Babcockian overload

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:

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The Babcockian coaching frenzy has as much to do with Babs’ image as his it does with his resume

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.

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Even more Babcock stuff

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:

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Sort-of overnight report: On Ericsson, Bertuzzi and dealing with Babcockian wooing

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...

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Prospect news: Walleye lose in double OT, series against Fort Wayne will ‘go 7’

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:

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Wait, you mean to tell me that Babcock doesn’t walk on water? (And Babs in Buffalo)

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...

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Does Toronto offer Babcock a ‘thin pitch?’

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?

Continued

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.

 

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