The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/22/14 at 08:44 AM ET
Between not being at 100% yet personally and the fact that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's commentary as Team Canada's coach is stuff that you and I have heard before, I've consciously chosen to keep the Everything Babcock Says Is Super Important To The Canadian Media Watch coverage to a bare minimum.
It is utterly amusing, however, to read his remarkably consistent commentary, his infuriating personnel decisions (P.K. Subban is not playing for Canada, but Dan Hamhuis is playing. This is kind of like the Kyle Quincey connundrum), his uber-type-A personality and his willingness to spar with the press, especially during mandatory-participation post-game press conferences (Babcock's stuck at a dais for ten minutes, so he can't simply say, "See you, guys" when he's tired of answering the same questions or just doesn't feel like talking anymore)...
Well, drive the press nuts instead of driving Wings fans nuts.
The Hockey News's Ken Campbell weighed in on Babcock's coaching ahead of Sunday's gold medal battle against Sweden (7 AM EST, NBC/CBC), and when someone titles his article, "Mike Babcock is controlling, pig-headed and stubborn. And he’s a genius," Red Wings fans can only nod in weary agreement:
Mike Babcock can be the most controlling, stubborn and pig-headed person you’ll ever meet. And because of that, Canada is playing in the gold medal game Sunday against Sweden.
Throughout this Olympic tournament, Babcock has been receiving criticism from all corners, including this one, for everything from how he was deploying his players to the suffocating defensive style of play to having Chris Kunitz playing on the top line with Sidney Crosby. Through it all, Babcock remained defiant and confident and has never, ever waivered from his playbook.
And that is making him look like a genius. Canada played as close as you’ll ever see to a perfect game in Friday’s 1-0 win over USA in the Olympic semifinal, a game that featured a frenetic pace, all kinds of personal sacrifice and outstanding goaltending. It’s a credit to USA, and particularly to goaltender Jonathan Quick, that the Canadian team played as well as it did, yet only won the game by one goal.
Now it comes down to a showdown with Sweden, a team Babcock knows well through his association with the Detroit Red Wings. He calls the Swedish team “egoless” and he’s right, but he could also use the same adjective to describe his own group. Canada has some of the most talented, highly paid and decorated players on the planet, but when it comes to individual accolades, they just don’t care. What they cared about Friday was executing a game plan, which they did to perfection. They were first on almost every puck, they were impenetrable and they outskated an American team that was supposed to have a big edge in speed.
“We haven’t scored and no one seems to care,” Babcock said. “It doesn’t matter. As you watch these other athletes at the Olympic Games compete and they spend four years of their life…you know how important the Olympic Games are. It doesn’t matter about any individual success, it just matters about team.”
Campbell continues, but you kind of know the story by now
I really like Babcock, despite the fact that I disagree with his personnel decisions half the time, he drives me nuts in terms of refusing to update players' injury statuses (see: "I haven't talked to the trainers," which is usually a lie), weighing in on controversial plays (see: either "I haven't seen it," which is usually a lie given that video coach Keith McKittrick records everything, or, "What I think doesn't matter," which isn't true), any questioning of his line combinations or power play machinations, etc. etc.
I don't agree with a lot of what Mike Babcock says or does, but I respect the man to no end, and especially given that he really reinvented his coaching style to be ever-so-slightly more player-friendly during the last lockout, and especially given that he hired someone with tons of head coaching experience to be the "good cop" in Tom Renney (Jeff Blashill is a superb coach and fantastic human being, but his speach and demeanor mirror Babcock's), I believe that Babcock's going to coach the Wings for as long as he wants to do so.
Watching Babcock and Holland essentially finish each other's sentences during HBO's 24/7 and Babcock preach his relentless positivity as essentially one of the program's narrators really helped reinforce my belief that he's the right man for the job...
Even if he drives all of us *#$%@& crazy, myself included.
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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.