The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/02/13 at 11:33 AM ET
RedWingsFeed and my email search monkeys caught this at the same time, and it's worth your time: Canucks Army's Jason Gregor spoke to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about his coaching philosophies, and in my opinion, if there's anyone who faced a bigger, "Keep this team on a remotely even course and your job's safe, but if you under-perform, you're outta here" equation in terms of security of tenure with the team, it's Babcock who's faced and passed that test.
Regardless of what the Wings do or don't do at the trade deadline, Babcock's going to be the one coaching Detroit's personnel, and regardless of whether you like him or loathe him, he's going to be the Wings' coach for a long time to come.
According to Babcock, his job remains centered around building upon his background as a physical education degree-holder with extensive work in sports psychology...
Jason Gregor: Give me your thoughts on the comparisons between being a teacher and a coach and maybe how similarly they are related.
Mike Babcock: I tell people all the time I’m a teacher. The reality is the exams are the games. What’s interesting to me is I feel coaching is a lot about teaching. For example, you give the kids an exam on Friday and everybody gets fifty. Well, to me as a teacher, you haven’t done your job. If everyone gets eighty, you probably taught them.
The same with coaching is, I’m probably a guy who shouldn’t be a guest on your show, but rather listening to your show- Hockey Coaching 101. The bottom line for a coach is maximizing the propensity of your athletes and getting them to play at the highest level. I’m a big believer that winning follows good coaches around. I guess what I would tell you is we’re in the teaching business.
We call it the solution business as we try to come up with ideas each and every day to make our group better. We want to maximize the potential of our individuals and our group. Each and every day you choose your attitude, you dig in and you try to make the people you work with better and make yourself better. I have a lot of respect for teachers, it’s a tough job. Coaching is a tough job too, but it’s an exhilarating job, lots of fun, no different than teaching.
And among the many, many topics that Gregor covers with Babcock, it's worth noting that the Wings' coach suggests that he's had to change the way he approaches his charges due to Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement...
JG: That leads me into Nick Lidstrom. Ken Holland has told me on numerous occasions that Lidstrom makes everybody around him in the organization better. How have you had to alter your strategy, without having a hall of famer on the back end every night?
MB: Well everybody talks about Nick, but the year before Nick retired we had Rafalski leave. Rafalski was the MVP in the 2010 Olympics on the back end. Brad Stuart went to San Jose because his family stayed there. That’s three of our top four. So it isn’t just Nick Lidstrom, it’s a total re-haul on the back.
So we’ve had to change a lot in how we play, because we simply can’t play the same way. We can’t make the same plays; that is just a fact. We make over anxious mistakes all the time. We make the sort of mistakes we never made before. We don’t move the puck like we did. It’s a way different game and I have to tell you, it’s been exciting. It’s been exciting trying to figure out a way to get this team to win. We, as coaches, haven’t done a good enough job.
We thought we had ‘er going earlier this year. We should have never thought that, because the wheels are off again and we’ve gotta get them back on. The bottom line; it is your job as a coach to maximize what you’ve been given. Whether it is a ton, or whether it is very little. You have to find a way to maximize your players. I said to our guys as early as today, one of the things I always like to do when I watch hockey I think, “Are they well coached?” If you watch the Red Wings right now, you’d say to yourself, “I wonder who is running that crew?”
And as it turns out, Babcock and Pavel Datsyuk--gasp--get along very, very well!
JG: I want to ask you about Pavel Datsyuk. How do you work with a player who is that talented and that driven? Do you have to relate differently to him compared to other guys on your team?
MB: Well, I just think Pavel’s not a challenge to deal with at all because he just works so hard and so proud. What I find is, when you’ve got twenty-three guys on your team, you’ve got twenty-three different ways to coach. If you don’t, you’re making a huge mistake. They’re all very different. On our team, we’re fortunate that they want to get better. Pavel Datsyuk, what makes him great, is he always wants to get better. He’s an elite performer. He plays the best when it counts.
We’ve been very injured this year, to say the least. So I haven’t had enough guys to help Pavel. Sometimes when you don’t have enough, you end up checking the guy yourself. The best thing I could do to help Pavel right now, is get him more help. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve got Franzen and Filppula back now, so hopefully we can help him.
Dealing with Pavel is easy because he is real straight forward and I’m a straight forward guy anyway. I just tell him what I need and he usually finds a way to get that done. He has an opinion on a lot of things and I’m willing to listen to it. We try to come up with things in a compromise or if he has a better idea, I try to go with that. Pavel is one of those guys; he can do whatever you want. He’s ultra competitive. That’s what I want in life, that’s what I want from my kids, that’s what I want from the people I work with; ultra competitive people who bring it every day. I’m looking for “everydayers.” If you don’t bring it everyday, I’m hoping you’re finding some place else to play.
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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.