Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

SI's Farber profiles Mike Babcock

10/09/2015 at 1:44pm EDT

Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber tells quite the gritty tale as to how Mike Babcock went from working in a slaughterhouse to working for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I'll spare you the gore...

Theoretically, this is the perfect marriage. After last season Babcock was a free agent with a gilt-edged résumé—10 straight playoff appearances with Detroit, a Stanley Cup (in 2008 with the Red Wings), two losses in seven-game finals (’03 with Anaheim, ’09 with Detroit) and Olympic gold with Team Canada in ’10 and ’14. Toronto was seeking a credible coach. After turning down a five-year, $20 million extension from Detroit and an offer by potential-rich Buffalo that essentially mirrored the one from Toronto, he cashed the golden ticket—$50 million over eight years. Six-point-two-five average. First-line money, and more than double the salary of Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks have won three Cups in six years. Says Red Wings GM Ken Holland, “Babs won the lottery.”

Why Toronto? Consider a theory. You know how the NHL suspends a player for one game in the playoffs for an offense that would have cost him two during the year because of the postseason’s relative importance? Well, there’s also Stanley Cup math. One Cup in Toronto would be exponentially greater than two or three elsewhere (e.g., 1994 New York Rangers 54-year drought). So an ambitious coach in Toronto gets a two-for-one deal: Win a Cup, get a statue. “I couldn’t see leaving Detroit for someplace other than an Original Six team, but I wanted to try something new,” Babcock says. “The hockey market, let’s be honest, it’s been a coach’s graveyard. Why would I be naive enough to think I could be different? I guess I just am. [We have to] be patient. Get good things going. Not deviate from the plan. Set ourselves up for a 10-year run. It’s probably going to take us three years to get that run set up.” When Babcock was introduced on May 20 in a press conference televised across Canada, he memorably cautioned, “If you think there’s no pain coming ... there’s pain coming.”

But this comment from Henrik Zettererg is very telling for Wings fans...

Playing for Babcock takes a toll; this coach accepts only exact change. “It was time. I think Mike felt that, and [the players] felt that,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg says. “The way he locked on things. The criticism. Hockey was 24/7 for him, and he demanded that of his players.” Zetterberg volunteers that he never thought this in 2008, of course, when Babcock was coaching Detroit to the Cup. “He’ll straighten things out in Toronto, no doubt, because he’ll structure ’em up.”

And Farber continues...

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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