To stay, or not to stay? That’s the question that faced Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock as he entered the seemingly never-ending bidding war that ultimately ended in his recent decision to depart with the Wings.
Agreeing to an eight-year deal worth around $50 million, Babcock will now return to his roots to serve as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leaves. At $6.25 million annually, Babcock is now the highest-paid coach in the league by a wide margin.
My first reaction? Yell curse words and slam some papers down on my desk. Having grown up believing that Babcock was going to lead the Wings to a streak of Stanley Cup wins as Scotty Bowman had done in my early childhood, a breakup with Babcock seems heart wrenching.
But as Detroit knows, each closed door comes with a new opportunity.
We’ve already celebrated the breaking ground of The District Detroit, the new home of the Detroit Red Wings to come in 2017. But along with this, and a now a new coach, the Wings just might have accepted the beginning of a new era.
Whether Ken Holland decides to bring in Grand Rapids Griffin’s coach Jeff Blashill, or seek out a more established coach, Hockeytown will persevere.
Blashill, 41, left the Western Michigan Broncos to join the Red Wings’ organization in July of 2011 as Assistant Coach to the Wings alongside Babcock. One year after that, he took on his current role as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he won the 2013 Calder Cup. His 2013 team then consisted of players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Petr Mrazek.
Perhaps a trend, eh? We’ll see. Babcock often criticized the wings talent as being old, when they perhaps have some great young prospects on hand who haven’t even seen the NHL yet. Wings fans all around Detroit wonder who will replace the legendary lineup of Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall. An answer, hopefully, that can be answered from Detroit’s next coach.
Nonetheless, Babcock managed to rack up 458 total wins … and 223 losses during his 10-year stint with the Wings. Some might say the Wings found a reoccurring home in the Playoffs because of Babcock. Yet others might believe the team almost always fell short of a Stanley Cup victory because of him (except 2008 – we had faith then).
It’s an unknown future that leaves us anxious yet hopeful, with the question to the Hockey Gods if this really was all meant to be.
But we’re left with just one question now – is Hockeytown really better off with or without Babcock?