The Malik Report
Wednesday, May 20th, was one of the longer days of my life. I knew it would be--that's part of the job of covering hockey news, and the Babcock sweepstakes, all 13 months of it, was going to have to end as bizarrely and with as thoroughly frenzied an ending as it did.
In terms of Mike Babcock's decision, I certainly cannot harbor ill will toward someone taking a $50 million offer (even though, as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond pointed out in separate radio appearances, Canadian income taxes and the cost of living might very well wash out what Babcock's taking in probably-U.S.-dollar salary from Toronto), and I can't harbor too much ill will at Babcock for moving on after ten years...
But I had always believed, perhaps naively, that what Babcock wanted to do was to be a "lifetime coach," the kind of singular figure who would prove that in pro sports, you can remain relevant and successful during a collegiate-coach-length tenure.
Instead, the man who' climbed the Triple Gold Club's worth of the Seven Summits of coaching is going to Toronto for his moon shot, thinking that he can be the next Werner Von Braun.
I can't say that I wish him lots of luck given my natural dislike for the franchise whose name is an anagram for Ample Fleas, but I fear that his encounters with the corporate ownership and management of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will end up dooming his rocket the way Sergei Korolev's N1 turned out, and there is something to be said for the fact that the rocket not exploding on the pad might be the hardest accomplishment to achieve in one's attempt to guide a Maple Leafs team to a Stanley Cup championship.
We'll find out whether Babcock can land a team on the moon in eight years, or less.
Sometimes it's best to start at the end, and in the case of this missive by Sportnset's Jordan Heath-Rawlings, I get to ask you, "Do you think he's right?" and leave the debate up to you.
This is the main reason that it's so hard to stay on top in the NHL, or any high-stakes sports league: The best teams lose their best people because they simply graduate from a system when they stagnate near the top, or there isn't enough money to pay all the people who deserve it. It happens on the fields and off, and it's a reality Detroit has confronted several times in the past decade.
It's not possible to say if the Red Wings will survive the loss of Babcock as smoothly as they did the exits of other non-playing personnel, and it would be an insult to an excellent coach to say he had little to do with their past success. But in giving him kudos for his 2008 and '09 runs, it's also important to note that the team advanced beyond the first round just once in the past five years.
And if the Wings are going to turn that recent record around, it's going to be on the backs of the next generation--the Nyquists, Tatars, Smiths and Pulkkinens. And they're about to replace Mike Babcock with a coach who knows them as well as anyone and has already led them to one championship.
Just like they drew it up? Perhaps not, but a pretty damned good Plan B.
I'm a little bitter about today--I know, it's silly, Babcock chasing the kind of money and power he did isn't something to hold against the man--but I'm still upset, so I want to hold off and let my head stop spinning before weighing in...
Other than to say that when I heard Babcock say that he was going to do what was best for himself and that Holland would do what was best for the Wings last Friday, I knew he was gone.
The Toledo Walleye face an incredibly stiff deficit against the South Carolina Stingrays--they trail the ECHL's Eastern Conference Final 3 games to none--despite a Martin Frk hat trick that yielded a 2nd-and-3rd-period rally from 4-1 and 5-2 deficits to force overtime against South Carolina, which ultimately prevailed via a 6-5 OT win.
Frk registered a hat trick on 4 shots but finished at -3, so that tells you all you need to know about the Walleye's struggles to keep the puck out of their net, and the Walleye's website posted a game recap:
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:
In more pressing matters...
In text form, from the Griffins:
Babcock departure multimedia: Ken Holland’s presser and comments from Maltby, Ward, McCarty & Mickey
First and foremost, in the multimedia vein, here's 5 minutes of Ken Holland's media availablity from the Red Wings' website:
Here's WXYZ's YouTube clip of Holland's presser...
via Elliottte Friedman of Sportsnet,
If you’ve read Lord of the Flies (and if you haven’t, shame on you), you’ll know what it means when I say Ken Holland had the conch.
This was as much Holland’s decision as it was Babcock’s. As the Detroit GM revealed Wednesday, he was not willing to go longer than five years on an extension. Larry Bird once said no coach should stay with a team more than three seasons. Holland offered 15.
Holland had a plan and he stuck to it. Babcock couldn’t agree to that, so Holland was gracious in parting and moved on. This wasn’t an easy process for the Red Wings, who were uncomfortable with the public nature of Babcock’s decision. In the end, they handled it as classy as we would expect.
One of the reasons Holland could take that stance was they feel they have a successor in the Wings. The GM made it very clear Jeff Blashill is a serious contender to fill the vacancy. Holland said there would only be one or two other names on his list, but it’s that time for the Grand Rapids coach. A lot of that roster liked playing for Blashill.
Detroit hires him or loses him.
It will be interesting to see if the Red Wings worry about any kind of letdown for next year. Babcock is a force of nature. He makes an impact and forces you to be your best. Will the removal of Babcock’s intensity mean players ease up, intentionally or not?
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Babcock, 52, leaves the Red Wings after 10 years. The pinnacle of his tenure came in 2007-09, 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.
"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."
from Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News,
Mike Babcock is gone. Personally, I will miss covering him.
Intelligence and enormous skill made for great interest in what the Red Wings were doing, and good copy.
I will always feel that at least two of the playoff berths in the past three seasons, since the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, were enormous accomplishments for a coach, as well as the team, and resulted much from Babcock's toils.
Seeing him flash that bird of prey scowl of his from behind the bench of another team will feel odd.
Covering him at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics made me realize he is a god in Canada.
And, for good reason.
Here's Ken Holland's presser from the Wings' locker room, via WXYZ:
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.