Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Summarizing the Detroit media’s takes on Babcock’s departure

Updated 5x at 12:35 AM: The Detroit and Michigan-based media weighed in in earnest regarding Mike Babcock's departure, and the only way I can properly address said content is doing it the old-fashioned way--source-by-source, with the most important parts of the missives highlighted and the rest up to you to read:

MLive:

If you weren't sure, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner wants you to know the following:

No matter what happens with the Detroit Red Wings coaching situation following the departure of Mike Babcock, frontrunner Jeff Blashill will stay with the Grand Rapids Griffins for the duration of the playoffs.

Ryan Martin, Red Wings assistant general manager, confirmed in a text Wednesday afternoon Blashill would continue to coach the team, currently preparing for the Western Conference finals.

Ansar Khan did a wonderful job of narrating Wednesday's sequence of events...

Babcock texted Holland at 8 a.m. and went to his house, and they talked for 30-40 minutes before Holland went to the office. They had one more "good talk" before Holland told him he had some players coming in for exit interviews, including Henrik Zetterberg.

"I called him at 11:15, and he told me he had made a decision and said, 'Ken, I'm going to Toronto,'" Holland said.

"I wanted Mike back if, at the end of the day, he wanted to be here," Holland said. "I know it was a difficult decision for him. He has roots here. His family has roots here. You get close to the players. We spent five days together watching the World Championships (last week in the Czech Republic), watching (top prospect) Dylan Larkin. But at the end of the day, he made a decision that was best for him."

Holland's first three offers to Babcock were for four years. He increased the term to five years on Monday and sweetened the pot to $4 million per season, doubling Babcock's salary. That was as long as he was willing to go and as high a salary as he was prepared to offer.

"When you've been in the same city for as long as I have and as long as Mike has, you don't get much longer term than four or five years," Holland said. "So I think part of the decision-making process for Mike was the amount of term he could get in Toronto compared to what we were willing to give."

Holland called owner Mike Ilitch with the news.

"When you give somebody the green light to explore the market when they're in the prime of their career, this is a real possibility," Holland said. "Mike Ilitch's reaction is the same as mine: 'Let's go find the next head coach.'"

And Khan suggests that the Wings pick Jeff Blashill as the team's next coach:

The term Babcock sometimes used to describe coaches like Blashill is "serial winner."

"He wins wherever he goes," Holland said. "I look at what he did at Western Michigan in getting them to the NCAA Tournament (in 2010-11). I think he had a tremendous positive influence in building that program.

"Prior to that, he won a championship in Indianapolis (USHL). We got a thing called the prospects tournament in Traverse City. It's now eight NHL teams. We never won the tournament. The first year we hired him as Grand Rapids coach, they won the tournament. They won the Calder Cup. Last year, with all the injuries we had in Detroit and all the players up here, they had the same thing down there. They had 99 points. He got 100 points this year. They're in the third round of the playoffs.

"Why does he win? I think he's a good coach."

Holland sees a lot of similarities between Babcock and Blashill.

"Making players accountable, having a tremendous work ethic, having passion, having a plan," Holland said. "Jeff has coached at different levels, just like Mike Babcock went from Moose Jaw and the University of Lethbridge and Spokane to the American League to the National League to a different team. Jeff Blashill's been the same, different levels, had success. Spent a year kind of learning under Mike (as a Red Wings assistant in 2011-12), then going down to Grand Rapids."

The only negative is his lack of NHL coaching experience. But that didn't stop five NHL teams from asking for permission to speak with him last summer, Holland said.

 

The Oakland Press/The Macomb Daily:

Pat Caputo believes that it's Ken Holland's turn to step up...

The Red Wings let Valtteri Filppula leave as a free agent, and he was snapped up by Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay at $5 million per year. Holland replaced him with a shockingly under-performing Stephen Weiss at $4 million per season.

The big free agents have not signed with Detroit. The Red Wings haven’t made significant trades for years to acquire veteran talent that provided genuine impact. Young players have emerged from the player procurement system, such as Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar and goalie Petr Mrazek – and that is to Holland’s credit - but the Red Wings could have used more veteran help as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall have begun to age.

Ah, there have been some grumblings about Holland, but his overall track record is as good as any GM currently in professional sports. Yet, it’s been that way to a large degree because Babcock has found a way to “coach ‘em up.”

Jeff Blashill, the Grand Rapids’ coach, who will likely replace Babcock, has been a dynamic coach at lower levels, but the NHL is different. There is no guantantee with him. With Babcock, it was like a guarantee the Red Wings were going to be as good as they could possibily be.

Babcock has a strong personality that wears on people, but rare is the great coach that doesn’t. The bottom line is he has won everywhere he’s been and under different circumstances, ranging from loaded teams during his early years with the Red Wings and the Canadian Olympic team, to flawed teams his last few years with Detroit and at Anaheim.

As for Toronto, it’s going to take all Babcock’s skills to deal with a dysfunctional franchise and a psychotic fan base.

But the bottom line here in Detroit is it is time for Ken Holland to live up to his reputation as a “great” general manager.

And Chuck Pleiness weighed in from Holland's presser:

“Anytime you’re an unrestricted free agent in the prime of your career there’s going to be opportunities that will stagger you,” Holland said. “I use the word stagger because I’m aware of what the industry pays, but in order to get people you have to go above and beyond the industry standards to try and get somebody to come to you.

“I’m happy for Mike,” Holland added. “Mike gave Red Wing fans and our organization 10 fabulous years. I loved working with Mike.”

On Wednesday, Toronto and Buffalo got into a bidding war over Babcock that also drew in the Wings, who made a final offer of $4 million for each of the next five seasons.

Detroit’s last contract offer to Babcock prior to the Wednesday was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season, which is a significant increase from the $2 million a year he made in his last contract.

The Wings will get a third-round pick during the next three seasons as compensation for Babcock, whose contract was set to expire on June 30, signing with Toronto.

...

“I wanted Mike back if at the end of the day he wanted to be here, if he felt at the end of the process this was the best fit for him,” Holland said. “I know it was a difficult decision for him. He has roots here. His family has roots here. You get close to the players. We spent five days together watching the World Championships, watching Dylan Larkin, and he’s more of the future and that’s sort of the direction we’re going. I know it was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day he made a decision that was best for him now I have some decisions to make.”

Jeff Blashill appears to be in line to take over, but Holland said he’ll put together a short list before making a final decision.

“Once I know the (playoff) schedule I’m going to go down and spend a day with him,” Holland said. “He’s certainly a leading candidate. I haven’t made a final decision. I need to spend some time with him before I know anything.”

 

CBS Detroit:

Ashley Dunkak noted that both money and term were issues for Holland...

“I couldn’t justify going past five years,” Holland said Wednesday. “Mike had been here for 10 years … but we’ve only won one playoff round in four years … We’ve got bigger goals than to make the playoffs, so to wake up two, three years from now if we’re not able to kind of take this program to the next level, then everybody starts looking at options. Because I’ve been here for 18 years, because Mike has been here for 10 years, there was a limit on term,” Holland said, “and when you’ve got a limit on term and the people that you’re negotiating against don’t have a limit on term, it starts to become a factor.”

Babcock’s deal with Toronto will pay him an average of $6.25 million per year. Detroit reportedly made a final offer of $20 million over five years, or $4 million per year. Holland shot down the idea that upping the dollars per year would have swayed Babcock to forego the option of a longer contract elsewhere.

Holland suggested the total amount of the contract was the overriding factor, and since the Red Wings would only go five years, they could not compete.

“You start to try to get to the number that’s out there – superstar players don’t make that amount of money … I don’t even know if there’s three or four players in the entire league that make that kind of money,” Holland said. “If I held on term, I couldn’t – there was nowhere to even get remotely close to what other options he had.”

And Jamie Samuelssen weighed in as to who he believes the next coach should be. Four names AREN'T Jeff Blashill:

DAN BYLSMA – Red Wings fans don’t have fond memories of Bylsma who was behind the bench when the Penguins won Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena to steal the Stanley Cup in 2009. Bylsma was fired by Pittsburgh a year ago and has been out of coaching since. He had little postseason success with the Pens after winning the Cup, but he is highly thought of enough that he was selected to coach Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

KEN HITCHCOCK – Technically, he still has a job as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues. But that relationship is fraying. A lot was expected of the Blues this year but they were knocked out rather easily by Minnesota in the first round. The Blues were one of the teams reportedly after Babcock to replace Hitchcock. Hitchcock once coached in Kalamazoo and has long been considered a Scotty Bowman knock-off – a little stand-offish socially, but a brilliant tactician. The problem, if the Wings are looking for a more player-friendly coach than Babcock, they certainly aren’t getting it with Hitchcock.

PAUL MacLEAN – Two years ago, MacLean accepted the Jack Adams Trophy as Coach of the Year for the Senators. He was fired after just a year and a half later. Such is the fickle nature of hockey. He played for the Red Wings and was Babcock’s assistant along with Todd McClellan for the glory years that Babcock had in Detroit. He knows the players well and is a friendly and gregarious fellow.

DALE HUNTER – The former NHL bad boy coached the Capitals for just one year before stepping down to return to London, Ontario to run and coach the Knights of the OHL. Hunter frustrated some in Washington for running a defensive style that thwarted the abilities of Alexander Ovechkin. But perhaps that’s exactly what the Red Wings need given their deficiencies on the blue line. If Hunter wants to be nearer to his family, London is a short drive from Detroit.

 

Detroit Free Press:

I'd already given bandwidth to Jeff Seidel's take on Babcock's departure, and the Free Press's Steve Schrader issued an "Octopus Garden"-style set of reasons we'll miss Babcock and a photo gallery of Babcock's tenure with Detroit;

Helene St. James discussed Holland's presser...

Babcock, 52, leaves the Wings after 10 years. The pinnacle of his tenure came in 2007-2009, which included a Stanley Cup in 2008, but the Wings haven't advanced out of the second round since 2009.

That was part of why the Wings weren't going anywhere near the term offered by the Leafs. Nor, for that matter, where they going near the amount of money. All that was left to do was wave goodbye.

"I'd like to thank Mike for 10 fabulous years," Holland said. "We've made the playoffs for 10 consecutive years. Went to the final four three straight years in '07, '08 and '09 and won a Cup in '08. The last few years, I thought he did a fabulous job in putting some younger players in our organization and developing them. Mike decided to go somewhere else. I'm not going to fold the franchise."

Holland last spoke to Babcock around 11:15 Wednesday morning, when Babcock informed Holland the Wings were out of the running. Holland immediately called captain Henrik Zetterberg and told him the news. Next was a call to Pavel Datsyuk. Niklas Kronwall turned out to be on an airplane.

Holland, of course, also informed Ilitch, who had much the same reaction as Holland - this event was a possibility when the Wings granted Babcock the right to look around.

"I'm happy for Mike," Holland said. "I loved working with Mike. What's made it easy for me is, it was Mike's decision. I've got mixed emotions because he's one of the greatest coaches in the league if not the greatest coach, but at the same time, as we went through the process, I think Mike understood that when you've coached in the same city for 10 years, my offers were a four-year term. Yesterday I said the best we can do is five years. When you've been in the same city as long as I have and as long as I have, you don't get much longer term than four or five years."

And she noted that Holland somewhat intentionally lives in something of a social media vacuum:

Holland reminisced back a week to last Thursday and eating breakfast with Babcock during the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. That was when Babcock told Holland that Darren Dreger of TSN, a Canadian sports network, wanted to come over and interview them.

"I'm thinking, you're flying over from Toronto and we're in Prague — boy," Holland said. "We sat for a seven-or-eight minute interview. You certainly understand the scope of how big it is. But I don't go on social media for a reason. I want to stay focused on what I've got to do.

"I've got Kris Draper that is on social media. I've got Ryan Martin that's on social media. I've got people in my organization that keep me posted as I need to know what's going on out there.

"I'm fortunate I'm not on Twitter. I don't tweet, I don't Twitter."

St. James discussed Jeff Blashill's future, too:

General manager Ken Holland will head to Grand Rapids within the next few days to spend time talking to Blashill, far and away the leading candidate to replace Babcock. Holland said he will interview at most two or three candidates, but really, it's Blashill. That was determined last summer.

At that time, Blashill had a year to go on his contract. Five NHL teams called to ask permission to talk to him, impressed with a man who coached the Griffins to the 2013 Calder Cup in what was Blashill's first season with the Griffins.

Holland told Blashill about the calls and then gave him two options.

"I gave him the choice to talk to any of the teams you want to, and your contract stays the same," Holland said, "or, I'm going to give you a significant raise. We doubled his salary, and for one year, you don't go interview.

"Blash said, 'Ken, I like it here, I want to continue to develop as a coach.' So basically he is in Year 1 of a three-year deal. I owe it to Blash to talk to him first, and then based upon that conversation, then I'll decide whether there's more conversations or more interviews.

"I like to be loyal to people. Blash was loyal to us. Blash chose to stay."

As an FYI, St. James also spoke with the NHL Network regarding Babcock (via RedWingsFeed):

 

 

Associated Press:

The AP's Noah Trister and John Wawrow wrote one article from the Toronto perspective...

Landing Babcock is a major coup for Brendan Shanahan, who in the past 13 months since taking over as president has fired general manager Dave Nonis, coach Randy Carlyle, interim Peter Horachek and several assistants and scouts.

"I'm proud of Shanny, I'm proud that he dreamt big," Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Tim Leiweke said. "He got the big whale. ...

"It should give everyone great hope about the future of this organization. Mike Babcock is a phenomenal coach, and I think we're really lucky to get him."

Detroit general manager Ken Holland said Babcock told him of his decision Wednesday morning.

"My offers last June were a four-year term. Again in January, it was a four-year term," Holland said. "As we sat yesterday morning, I said, 'Mike, the best I can do is five years.' When you've been in the same city as long as I have, and as long as Mike has, you don't get much longer term than four and five years. So I think that certainly part of the decision-making process probably for Mike was the amount of term that he could get in Toronto."

And another, via RedWingsFeed, about Holland's comments:

The Detroit Red Wings are ready to start searching for a new coach — and right now there's only one clear candidate.

Jeff Blashill might not end up getting the job, but he's the man general manager Ken Holland will talk to first now that coach Mike Babcock has left for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Once I have that meeting, I'll know what the next step is," Holland said. "I'm not going to interview 8-10 people. I might interview one. I might interview two or three. I'm going to decide that in the next few days."

Blashill is the coach of Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, and he was honored as the AHL's outstanding coach in 2013-14. Holland said five teams called and asked permission to interview Blashill a year ago, but the Red Wings bumped up his salary and kept him.

"I owe it to Blash to talk to him first," Holland said.

...

Grand Rapids is still playing in the postseason. Holland is hoping to visit with Blashill without being too disruptive.

"He's certainly a leading candidate. I haven't made a final decision. I need to spend some time with him before I know anything," Holland said. "Hopefully next week I get over and spend some time with Blash."

 

Detroit Red Wings' website:

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose laid some heavy hints:

The ninth head coach in Grand Rapids history, Blashill has led the Griffins to the playoffs in all three seasons, and twice he guided them to a division title.

A collegiate goalie at Ferris State University, Blashill remained with the Bulldogs following his senior season, latching onto an assistant position in 1998, and after three seasons at Ferris and another six at Miami University, he took a head coaching gig with the Indiana Ice in 2008, and led them to the USHL championship in his first season.

Five years ago, Blashill returned to the CCHA as head coach at Western Michigan University, and earned national coach of the year honors from two college hockey publications for rejuvenating the Broncos, which had a losing record a season earlier. Under, Blashill, the Broncos improved to 19-13-10, finished fourth in the CCHA regular-season, but managed to reach the CCHA tournament championship game before falling to Miami.

It didn’t take long for Blashill to enjoy success after accepting the Griffins post in 2012, coaching the Wings to the NHL Prospects Tournament championship before guiding Grand Rapids to the AHL title eight months later.

“Number one, he wins,” Holland said. “Why does he win? I think a good coach, when I look at Mike Babcock and I see lots of similarities in Jeff Blashill. I want to talk to him. Making players accountable, having a tremendous work ethic, having passion, having a plan. Jeff has coached at different levels, just like Mike Babcock. … Jeff Blashill's been the same, different levels, had success. Spent time here under Mike Babcock. Spending a year kind of learning under Mike, then going down to Grand Rapids, so I think those are enough. You make people accountable, he's got a work ethic, he's got a plan, he's coached before, he's got experience, he wins.”

 

Detroit News:

Paul already mentioned Gregg Krupa's column about Babcock's departure, a set of "expert" comments, and the News did post a photo gallery and recollection of the "Babcock years";

Ted Kulfan filed one "just the facts" story...

Mike Babcock traded Hockeytown for the Center of the Hockey Universe.

Babcock made his long-awaited decision regarding his future Wednesday and decided to take a monstrous offer from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The contract is an eight-year contract worth $50 million, a $6.25 million per year average — Babcock is reportedly able to opt out after five years — a huge acquisition by Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, the former Red Wings player, making Babcock among the highest-paid coaches among the four major team sports.

Babcock, 52, had become the biggest free-agent story in the NHL, as his contract with the Red Wings was to expire on June 30.

Krupa: Babcock's coaching savvy will be sorely missed

The Red Wings' final offer to Babcock was a five-year contract worth $20 million ($4 million per season).

As compensation, the Red Wings will receive a third-round draft pick from Toronto within the next three seasons, given Babcock left before his contract with the Red Wings expired.

And one from Holland's presser:

"Mike made the decision he wants to be in Toronto," Holland said. "Sometimes change is good if I can make the right decision. Mike will say it's a different challenge and different opportunity, and we're the same.

"We had 10 great years. After a process, Mike decided to go somewhere else. I'm not going to fold the franchise. We'll go to work and we'll try to beat Mike."

Holland made it clear he could not offer a longer term than four or five years.

The Red Wings last offer was believed to be five years worth $20 million ($4 million per season).

"I know it was a difficult decision for him, he had roots here, he's been here for 10 years," Holland said. "His family has roots here. You get close to the players. I know it was a difficult decision but, in the end of the day, he made a decision that he felt was best for him and now I have decisions to make and our goal is to beat Mike.

"I'd like to thank Mike for 10 fabulous years."

Gregg Krupa did discuss Blashill's pedigree:

The strong likelihood remains that the “NHL coach in waiting,” as Blashill is described by Holland, is named the 27th coach of the Red Wings by sometime in June, if not before.

He is said, by his players and others, to sound just like Babcock, without the pyrotechnic intensity.

Blashill has the words, but not quite the passion.

Will players like Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall respond to him as they responded to Babcock?

Will Blashill enjoy the same success in his NHL career as the new coach of the Maple Leafs?

The fact of the matter is, no one knows with anything approaching certainty.

The strongest sense, however, is that we are about to find out.

 

Fox Sports Detroit:

Dana Wakiji noted what Holland had to say about the leadership group...

Holland said he wanted to make sure he told the Wings' leadership group -- captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall -- the news before they heard it elsewhere. Kronwall's been on vacation so he was flying, but Holland had Kris Draper send him a text message.

"(Zetterberg) said he's been watching it from afar," Holland said. "I'm sure Hank is like I am, he's thankful for 10 fabulous years but he's now with somebody we're trying to beat."

Now that the decision is made, Holland is set on his next task -- finding the team's next head coach.

Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill, who opted to remain in the organization last year and got a raise doubling his salary for it last season, will get the first interview on a non-game day when the Griffins are at home.

"I owe it to Blash to talk to him first," Holland said. "Based upon that conversation, then I'll decide whether there's more conversations or more interviews or I'll make a decision. I like to be loyal to people. Blash was loyal to us, Blash chose to stay, Blash could have interviewed with a lot of teams, Blash has had a real positive impact on the younger people in our organization, he's had a real positive impact in Grand Rapids."

And Keith Gave offered this:

Last summer, after a conversation that lasted just a few minutes, Holland agreed to his own four-year contract extension, and the very first thing he did was go to Babcock and offer him a healthy raise on a similar deal to continue the partnership another four years.

Babcock balked. Holland got nervous, and that's when he sat down with Blashill for a serious discussion. Holland mentioned that it looked as though Babcock was going to play out his contract and asked the Grand Rapids coach if he wanted out of his contract to pursue those NHL prospects.

Blashill's response: "I like it here. I'm still learning. I'm still training to be a good coach."

He stayed, and tonight his Griffins will find out which team they will face -- Utica or Oklahoma City, in the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs. (Those teams meet in Game 7 of their series.)

So Holland tore up Blashill's contract and doubled his salary. The three-year-deal at $400,000 per year made Blashill the highest-paid coach in the American Hockey League.

Immediately after their third first-round playoff KO in four years earlier this month, teams started calling Holland asking permission to talk with Babcock -- and we now know how that turned out. And again this spring, three teams also wanted permission to speak with Blashill. Holland again refused them -- and we now know why.

 

Windsor Star/Hockeybuzz:

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff offered this take on the non-monetary reasons why Babcock left...

The other reason was Detroit’s recent history. Yes, the Wings have made the playoffs 24 seasons in succession, but they haven’t won a series beyond the first round in five springs and have won a solitary series in the past three years.

You give Babcock eight more years and that doesn’t change in the next year or two, you’ve got a significant problem on your hands.

“I certainly felt that Mike had 3-4-5 years that he could continue to get the most out of our group but to start to think that you were going to go beyond that, again, 10 years is an eternity in professional sports,” Holland said.

“Mike totally understood. Now there’s another opportunity for us here going forward.”

Expect that opportunity to go to Jeff Blashill, coach of Detroit’s AHL farm club in Grand Rapids. Holland acknowledged that Blashill was the first person he spoke with once he learned of Babcock’s plans.

Now, all of the day’s events certainly don’t mean Babcock suddenly became a bad coach. Far from it.

It’s simply a case that sometimes, a change is good.

For everyone.

And on Hockeybuzz...

Holland said he had a short list in mind for a new coach, but in reality, it’s a list that likely starts and ends with Jeff Blashill, the coach of their AHL farm team in Grand Rapids. The Wings gave him a $200,000 raise to a $400,000 annual salary last spring in exchange for turning down the chance to interview with five other NHL teams. Holland didn’t do that to keep Blashill down on the farm when the Detroit job came open.

“I talked to Blash today,” Holland said. “I’m waiting to see their playoff schedule because they’re going into the third round. Once I know the schedule I’m going to go down and spend a day with him. He’s certainly a leading candidate. I haven’t made a final decision. I need to spend some time with him before I know anything.”

If nothing else, the one thing Babcock jumping from Detroit to Toronto has accomplished is to add another spark to an already heated and long-standing rivalry.

“After a process, Mike decided to go somewhere else,” Holland said. “We're not going to fold the franchise, we're going to go to work, we're going to try to beat Mike. Mike's in Toronto, Mike's down the road. Mike, he wants to go into Toronto and help them make the playoffs. Well, we want to be in that race, we want to finish ahead of him so it's certainly going to make for an interesting kind of side story as we head into the '15-16 season.” Our goal is to beat Mike.”

 

Michigan Hockey:

Michael Caples reported the facts from Holland's presser...

When asked about the decision process and if he was surprised by Babcock’s choice, Holland said that’s not a question he could answer.

“You’ll have to ask Mike that,” Holland said. “I’ll say to you that it was, I just know it was a difficult decision because I was sort of involved at the front end and then we went to Prague and we were both in Prague and he met with some people there, Brendan Shanahan came over there, he spent some time with Shanny over in Prague. Who was the frontrunner, how do you handicap the race? That’s one for Mike. I just think that again, he had been here for ten years, when you’ve been somewhere for a long time you’ve got roots, we worked hard together to build a program, a program of player development, drafting, they come up here and Mike makes them accountable and there’s some young players here where we’re trying to transition here to some younger people, we’re trying to stay competitive and we’re trying to compete to make the playoffs and to go on a playoff run.

“I think when you put your heart and soul, we’ve worked together hand-in-hand, these aren’t easy decisions. If they were easy decisions, you probably had the wrong people in the first place. When I hired Mike Babcock, he had passion, he had a work ethic, and he became a Red Wing. Ultimately, I think that he went into this process and he made the deicision that he made today. I believe it was a difficult decision for him, not only to choose to go to Toronto but to choose to leave Detroit. I know he had a couple other teams that were impressive as well. I don’t know how to handicap it, but I do know that it was a difficult decision.”

And Stefan Kubus discussed the future of both Jeff Blashill and the Wings' current assistant coaches:

“I like to be loyal to people; Blash was loyal to us, Blash chose to stay, Blash could’ve interviewed with a lot of teams, Blash has had a real positive impact on the younger people in our organization, and he’s had a real positive impact in Grand Rapids,” Holland said.

And possibly what gives Blashill an inside track over any other potential candidate is something that experience and a thorough track record can’t quite compete with: familiarity.

“Certainly with Blash, we’ve worked together,” Holland said. “He was here for a year as an assistant coach. He worked more for Mike, I would go in the room and talk to the head coach every day. Ryan Martin’s the GM, he talks to Blash, so I want to spend some time with Blash, then I’ll decide what’s the next step after I’ve met with Jeff Blashill.”

In fact, the Red Wings could have an entirely new staff behind the bench come next season, as assistant coaches Tony Granato came over from Pittsburgh with an option after one year, while Andrew Brewer and Jim Hiller each signed one-year deals to correspond with Babcock’s expiring deal.

“I want people that want to be in Detroit, and their contracts are up, so certainly I was a big boy,” Holland said. “I understood when I signed those people to one-year deals what could happen in the summer of 2015, so that’ll play out here over the next two, three weeks.”

 

 

They count as local:

ESPN's Craig Custance penned an Insider-only entry discusing where the Wings, Leafs, and Sabres go from here:

Detroit Red Wings

Credit GM Ken Holland for setting this up almost perfectly. He made an offer that would have made Babcock the highest paid coach in the game, but made sure he also had a coach-in-waiting ready to go with the AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Jeff Blashill is now the heavy favorite to replace Babcock behind the Detroit bench.

Blashill intentionally stayed out of the Babcock frenzy, cutting down on the usual communication with Detroit’s head coach while Babcock went through the process, out of respect for him. Blashill didn’t try to find out which teams were calling about him in Detroit. He’s just focused on winning in Grand Rapids with the mindset that, if he does just that, things will work themselves out. Chances are, they will.

“He coaches the game very sharply,” said one source who knows Blashill well. “Most of the players have already played for Blash, they know Blash. They know there’s an accountability with him. And the older guys -- they’re going to like him.”

And Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika penned quite the missive:

Staying with the Detroit Red Wings would have been safe. Babcock spent a decade in Detroit, won a Stanley Cup and went to Game 7 in another Cup final. His family liked it there. He had a good relationship with general manager Ken Holland. He had a roster with good players with more prospects on the way. The Wings made him a fair offer a long time ago. They were willing to make him the highest-paid coach in the NHL. He could have accepted it and avoided a year of speculation about his future, but he didn’t.

Let’s be real: money mattered. The Wings were willing to pay only to a point on principle, because no man is bigger than their program. They knew they had won before Babcock, and they figured they could win after Babcock, especially with Jeff Blashill – AHL champion, AHL coach of the year – ready and waiting. Babcock knew he could make more elsewhere.

The situation mattered, too. The Wings had made the playoffs for 24 straight seasons, the longest active streak in the NHL by far. But they hadn’t advanced past the first round three times in four years and each of the last two, and their best players were aging. Babcock’s message hadn’t gone stale, and the roster had turned over. But the results had stagnated, and it was unclear if the Wings had enough elite talent coming to contend for the Cup again.

Going to the Buffalo Sabres would have made sense. They had a singular owner in Terry Pegula with deep pockets and deep desire to win, not unlike Wings owner Mike Ilitch. They had a general manager, Tim Murray, with whom Babcock had worked before in Anaheim. They had a terrible team but a bunch of young players and prospects, plus the No. 2 overall pick this year that could be used to draft Jack Eichel. By all accounts they made an aggressive push, but it didn’t work out.

Going to Toronto seems crazy. They have a corporate owner. They have no general manager. They have a terrible team – a few good assets, but lots of problems – and a circus-like media environment. But they do have president who played for Babcock in Detroit, Brendan Shanahan, and he has cleared out the front office, coaching staff and scouting staff. He has made smart hires, including Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter. He has the resources of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

 

Update: And USA Today's Kevin Allen offers a postscript:

Players will tell you that he is uncomfortably demanding of them. He lets players know how he feels about their performance level. He holds players accountable. He has a doghouse, and it's easy to get in it, and sometimes it's hard to get out.

That's probably the main reason why the Maple Leafs wanted him. The Maple Leafs had a 30-44-8 record, 27th in the NHL, and in the second half of the season the players looked unmotivated and uninterested.

That won't happen on Babcock's watch. He gets results. He always has.

The Red Wings offered Babcock a significant raise, reportedly around $4 million a year over five years, but they will not look at his departure as a major crisis for the franchise.

They gave their highly regarded Grand Rapids (Mich.) American Hockey League coach Jeff Blashill a raise last summer to prevent him from seeking other NHL jobs. He's the favorite to replace Babcock. The Red Wings wouldn't give other teams permission to talk to Blashill about their head coaching jobs because they knew it was possible Babcock would leave.

Blashill is similar to Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Blashill is an innovative coach with strong communication skills. The Red Wings believe he has the potential to be another Babcock, the kind of coach who always finds a way to get results.

The Red Wings' view is that 13 years ago they had to replace the greatest coach in NHL history, Scotty Bowman, because he retired. They ended up landing another exceptional coach in Mike Babcock.

Now they have to replace Babcock, and they feel comfortable they will hire someone who can continue their streak of 24 consecutive seasons in the playoffs.

 

 

Update #2: Fox 17 posted one of those auto-continuous play videos about Jeff Blashill;

Update #3: And the Detroit News's John Niyo's weighed in:

The GM and coach, despite their occasional clashes over personnel decisions and the roster over the years, have a unique relationship. Holland even talked Wednesday about Babcock and his wife, Maureen, making plans to be at his daughter's wedding this summer.

And in their many hours of conversations over the last few weeks, they'd talked about everything. They talked about the "program" they'd built over the last decade, the development system that's starting to bear fruit again, and the playoff streak they'd managed to keep intact.

"Up until 11 o'clock this morning," Holland said, "there was always the possibility that I picked up the phone or Mike came and said, 'I'm gonna stay.' "

But they also talked about the ones that got away — the Cup finale in 2009, and the Game 7s in Chicago in 2011 and Tampa this spring.

"We wish we'd have won more playoff series," Holland said, almost wistfully. "But at the end of the day, all good things come to an end."

And so it is with Babcock's 10-year run here, a good thing that ended exactly the way he wanted it to. In fact, I can recall a conversation we had in his office way back in 2008, talking about his Hall of Fame predecessor, Scotty Bowman, a few months before the Wings won the Cup and Babcock signed his second contract in Detroit. At the time, Babcock was under strict orders from his eldest daughter to see that contract through. But beyond that? Well, he was sure of only one thing, he told me.

"I want to be able to do what Scotty did — leave on my own terms," he told me. "Not a lot of coaches get to do that."

Update #4: And of course the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski issued a "spirit of the thing" assessment:

After the Wings were eliminated in Game 7 by the Lightning, Babcock perhaps foreshadowed his intentions when he said the top players were getting older, and he didn't know if the younger players were good enough. It was an indelicate assessment after a tough loss, but it was truly Babcockian: raw, honest and ruffling.

It also showed it might be time for a fresh voice. The Wings aren't necessarily rebuilding, because that simply isn't allowed with the playoff streak. But they are retrenching, and it could take more patience than Babcock was willing to give.

This upheaval can be viewed the skeptical way, that the Wings former stars came back to haunt them. Yzerman's team knocked them out of the playoffs with a young coach in Jon Cooper, and then Shanahan came along and swiped Babcock.

It also can be viewed the logical way, that Babcock saw a wide-open door and the chance for a lucrative exit, a chance to reinvigorate himself. With their own promising young coach, it's a chance for the Wings to do the same.

"We have lots of positives," Holland said. "We've got youth on our team, a brand new building coming (in 2017). We've got important building blocks."

Babcock did what he hinted he'd do, and no one should be surprised. Now the Wings must do what they've long done, and again prove one big-name loss doesn't deter them.

Update #5: It wouldn't be a Detroit sports event if the Free Press's Mitch Albom didn't weigh in:

Remember, Babcock arrived a few years after a fellow named Scotty Bowman left, and many people thought the Wings would never survive Bowman's departure. The fact is, it's still players who win Cups, and the Wings have enough issues in that department as it is.

"The last three years," Holland said, pointing out the recent direction under Babcoack, "we made the playoffs in the 48-game season in Game 48, the year after that in Game 81, the year after that in Game 81 ..."

And they never got farther than the second round of the playoffs. Could it be that it was just as much time for the Wings to split with Babcock as for Babcock to split with them?

Look. I'll say this about the guy. He worked hard. He never rested on his laurels. He got a bit testy in his last few years here, and he was a little squiggly during this shopping around phases, acting as if Detroit was paradise, that his wife was making the decision, that the world would be a whole lot easier if he stayed put, while all the while knowing, I think, that he could break a bank somewhere else, and he was going to.

But that just makes him a businessman in a business.

"I don't know who coaches the same team for two decades," Holland said, wrapping up. "As time wore on, you emotionally come to realize that you might be parting ways. ... Mr. Ilitch's perspective is the same as mine: Thank him for a great 10 years. … Now we gotta go out and do our business and try and find a coach and build a program. We want to beat Babcock's Leafs."

Babcock's Leafs. Sounds funny, right? But nothing stays the same in sports except change. Time is money, they say. And in Babcock's case, both of them pointed to the exit.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

No offense intended but there is no way that Hunter, Blysma or Mac should be coaching the redwings over Blash. Hitchcock is good but has had his day in the sun. Mac is better than Hunter (personally opining) and whine whine Blysma would send most wing fans over the wall.

Just because they have coached or here is a hint “are not coaching as they were fired” doesn’t mean they are the best choice for the make up of the team. I really did like Mac as an assistant and I like him better than the other 3 but….

Posted by wbclimb on 05/20/15 at 09:40 PM ET

Avatar

It’s Blash’s job to lose of course but Holland may give interviews out of respect to some.of these guys.

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/15 at 10:03 PM ET

Chet's avatar

I wouldn’t interview anyone if I was KH. It’s all but done. Don’t waste people’s time. Do it.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 05/20/15 at 11:35 PM ET

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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.