While the sports world has been obsessed with deflated footballs and the contents of Tom Brady’s cell phone, another compelling story has gone unnoticed by many – the question of where NHL head coach extraordinaire Mike Babcock will end up.
There is no doubt about it, Babcock is a winner and a top flight hockey coach. His glowing resume includes a Stanley Cup with his current team, the Detroit Red Wings (2008), and gold medals in both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics as well as winning an IFC championship in 2004. In addition, Babcock earned his 500th career win as an NHL head coach last December, becoming the second-fastest coach to do so; only Hall of Fame Coach Scotty Bowman reached the 500-win plateau faster. And now Mike Babcock is available, and could possibly be coming to the Flyers.
But do the Flyers really have a legitimate shot at landing Babcock? NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet.ca said that the Flyers are in the running, along with the Buffalo Sabers and Detroit (where Babcock has coached for the past 10 years). It is believed the Toronto Maple Leafs may also have an outside chance.
Friedman said the following when talking about what it would take to land Babcock as the head coach.
“Babcock said there would be three major considerations to any job he takes. First, his working relationship with the owner and the general manager. Second, ‘What is the plan for winning?’ as he put it. Third, his family’s desires in all this.”
We would have to add a fourth consideration – Babcock’s new contract.
Let’s examine each of these considerations, one at at time. We’ll go in reverse order:
Contract – The Flyers will most certainly be willing to offer a very lucrative contract. Toronto is expected to make the highest salary offer. However, Detroit is no slouch when it comes to finances, and they may well decide to match any offer made by another club. No matter what, Babcock will become the highest paid coach in NHL history, with a salary of at least $4 million per year, double what he currently earns.
Family Concerns – Detroit will have the clear advantage here. Maybe Ron Hextall should send dozens and dozens of flowers to Mike Babcock’s wife, just as Pat Croce did for Shelly Brown when he was trying lure her husband, Larry Brown to become the next 76ers head coach back in 1997. Croce says that at the time he told his South Philly florist to “fill the room with so many flowers that it looks like a mafia funeral.” Maybe Hexie should do the same thing for Maureen Babcock.
Plan for Winning – Here the Flyers may have an edge. Arguably they currently have four legitimate stars – Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek. and Steve Mason. In addition, they have a number of young and upcoming potential stars on defense who offer a great deal of hope for the future. So talentwise Philadelphia is clearly ahead of Buffalo and Toronto, although when Buffalo drafts Jack Eichel in June their future gets notably brighter. The Flyers are close to even with Detroit in terms of young talent. Babcock hates losing with a passion, and may be looking for a team with the best possible immediate future- which could be the Flyers.
Working Relationship with Management – In his ten years with the Red Wings, Babcock has enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Detroit management and if the Red Wings do decide to match any financial offer made by another team, it is very unlikely that their coach will go elsewhere. On the other hand, the Flyers offer what appears to be a solid, smart GM in Ron Hextall, and an owner willing to win at any cost in Ed Snyder.
The Bottom Line
So will Mike Babcock become the next coach of the Philadelphia Flyers? Sorry to deflate your hopes, Flyers fans, but in the end, I believe the odds are that Babcock returns to Detroit.