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The Sabres Observer

Babcock Courtship Was Just Bad Timing

One of my guilty television addictions is "Shark Tank" ("Dragons' Den" in Canada), a show where successful and insanely wealthy investors hear pitches from ambitious entrepreneurs seeking funding to take their companies to another level.

In many cases, the business owners are told they have a bright future ahead but aren't big enough -- not enough sales -- to get an investment just yet.

That's metaphorically what happened when Mike Babcock spurned the Sabres yesterday.

Many in Buffalo, from fans and media to apparently even some in the Sabres organization, are flabbergasted at The Coveted One choosing a Toronto franchise in turmoil. The methods and negotiating tactics of the former Detroit coach have certainly come under fire as well.

Babcock departing the Red Wings has instantly reignited a Sabres - Leafs rivalry that hasn't been the same since the Rob Ray vs. Tie Domi days. Yesterday, fans and writers from both cities were sparring on social media over which team will sooner be a contender.

And while this writer predicts Buffalo in a landslide, this is a time for Sabres fans to humbly and patiently accept a sobering reality.

Toronto is Toronto, and Buffalo is Buffalo. You know where this is going.

Talk all you want about the prospect pool, Jack Eichel, the "nowhere to go but up" buzz taking over Sabres Nation and everything else related.

54 points is what you are. That's what the hockey world sees on your business card. Until there is hard evidence that the Sabres are on the precipice of competing for a Stanley Cup, this team will have a difficult time attracting elite free agent coaches and players.

As far as why Babcock would choose Toronto, with a struggling team of its own, the answer is obvious. Have you ever been there?

Those of us who live here know Buffalo is a very underrated city and that there are so many great things happening. But ask yourself objectively how you think Babcock's wife reacted when her husband asked, "Toronto or Buffalo?".

The only bait to get a leg up on the Torontos and New Yorks of the world is the allure of winning. And while there is a bright future ahead for the Sabres, they aren't quite ready -- not enough wins -- to land the big fish from the Shark Tank just yet.

If this courtship were to happen, say two years from now, Babcock might have signed a contract in Buffalo five minutes after getting off the plane.

But now just isn't the right time. So go out and find a really good coach (how about this guy?) who is hungry to develop a young Sabres team into a contender.

If things work out as planned, the time will come when the Sabres will have no trouble landing top coaches and players. In the meantime, think of yesterday as confirmation that they took the right approach by building through the draft. In the grand scheme of things, what happened with Babcock is in no way a death knell for the rebuild.

dd@kuklaskorner.com

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Filed in: | The Sabres Observer | Permalink
  Tags: babcock+toronto+buffalo

Comments

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Until there is hard evidence that the Sabres are on the precipice of competing for a Stanley Cup, this team will have a difficult time attracting elite free agent coaches and players.

Edmonton, basically as much of a dumpster fire as Toronto has been for the past decade, attracted Todd McLellan.

Just because Babcock douched them while looking for the biggest paycheck he could get (thanks for that link BTW, I had no idea of the way he appears to have jerked them around) doesn’t mean there’s not a very good coach out there willing to take on the daunting task of coaching a player like Jack Eichel.

Posted by Garth on 05/21/15 at 10:48 AM ET

nEgativezEro's avatar

The fact of the matter is Toronto was willing to pay, and pay, and pay. Detroit made a fair offer that would double his current contract. Buffalo promised to make him richer than that. Toronto has endless funding, and despite the early predictions, was going to get Babcock at any cost. Pegula has deep pockets, but he was still only willing to go so far.

Mike Babcock is a fantastic coach. One of the best in the game. Nonetheless, he’s only a small piece of the puzzle to Stanley Cup glory. Toronto offers him the chance to bring the Cup back to Canada. Win it on the biggest stage in the sport. Bring silver back to the Mecca of Hockey.

Buffalo is easily two or three years ahead of Toronto right now. While debatably deplorable, Buffalo had a plan and has stuck to it. Two miserable seasonswhile stocking up on young talent and draft picks is coming to fruition. They aren’t all the way there yet, but the foundation is looking really good. There are some great pieces on the team now. Eichel will give them a superstar. He’s the 2004 draft equivalent of Malkin going 2nd to the 1st overall Ovechkin.

Losing out on Babcock hurts, but he’s not the only coach out there. Red Wings fans can tell you. We haven’t been past the second round since 2009. We may have had the “best coach in hockey”, but it didn’t get us into June all the same. There are other quality coaches out there, and it’s a good bet that Buffalo will be a better team than Toronto for the next 2 to 3 years, Babcock or not.

Posted by nEgativezEro on 05/21/15 at 10:49 AM ET

awould's avatar

The methods and negotiating tactics of the former Detroit coach have certainly come under fire as well.

So a hockey coach outmaneuvered a group of billionaire businessmen in a salary negotiation? Boo hoo.

It plainly states that there was no bidding war. He took Buffalo’s offer to Toronto, a place it seems was at the top of the list, and they beat it, and he was happy to leave it at that.

Posted by awould on 05/21/15 at 12:36 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Those of us who live here know Buffalo is a very underrated city and that there are so many great things happening. But ask yourself objectively how you think Babcock’s wife reacted when her husband asked, “Toronto or Buffalo?”.

Bingo. The slightly higher salary Babcock got will be eaten up by Canadian taxes and a grossly higher cost of living. But I highly doubt that Mrs. B would have been thrilled to spend her winters alone for long stretches of time in snow-bound Buffalo as opposed to a cosmopolitan city like Toronto.

Happy wife. Happy life. And Babcock is definitely smart enough to understand that. Besides, they’re both Canadians and I think that played into the feelings of both of them about moving to Toronto.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/21/15 at 02:12 PM ET

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]