There’ll come a day when Mike Babcock no longer is the coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Just don’t go holding your breath waiting for it.
The Red Wings have a gem in Babcock, and right now I’d say it’s pretty darn difficult to imagine the team being coached by anyone else.
It’s a measuring device I use–a yardstick, if you will. I look at the coaches around town and mentally insert someone else in their place. Then I see how easy (or hard) that is to do.
Jim Schwartz, still getting a feel for what he’s gotten himself into with the Lions, is brand new so he doesn’t really count.
Jim Leyland, despite the contract extension he just signed with the Tigers, still strikes me as someone whose flame might burn out instantly, with little warning. I’ve said it before: don’t be shocked if Leyland, one day, maybe in the middle of May, pulls a Bobby Ross and quits, on the spot.
Just a hunch.
Michael Curry, learning on the job with the Pistons, is the easiest coach in town to imagine packing his belongings and being shown the door.
Steve Yzerman, the head of Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, yesterday named his old coach as his new coach for the pursuit of the gold medal.
It’s a job that Babcock wanted badly, and now he has it.
There will be those who’ll cry nepotism, in a broken arrow sort of way.
Let ’em cry.
Babcock is supremely qualified to coach Team Canada. Not just because of his unmitigated success with the Red Wings in his four seasons, but because of his experience coaching in the international arena.
Babcock led Canada to gold twice: at the 1997 world juniors, and in 2004 at the world championships.
In 2006, Team Canada foundered, finishing an embarrassing seventh in the winter games in Torino.
The scuttlebutt is that the expectation is to go from No. 7 to gold medalists, period.
Babcock is just the man to do it, according to Yzerman, who played for him for one season.
“I’m certain Mike is the right guy to take the reins and play a style of play that will be successful this winter in Vancouver,” Yzerman said at the press conference announcing the hiring.
But back to his Red Wings gig.
There’s a little bit of Chuck Daly and Jack McCloskey going on with Babcock and Ken Holland, in terms of coach and GM relationships.
Daly and McCloskey, who worked together for nine seasons with the Pistons, didn’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes their contract negotiations were contentious. Daly even worked a couple of playoffs without a contract at all.
But they meshed brilliantly, if not always smoothly.
I can see the same kind of longevity developing with the Red Wings, when it comes to Babcock and Holland.
Holland, to his end, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. His feet are as firmly planted in the executive offices at Joe Louis Arena as the pillars in the concrete basement, holding up the stands.
Then there’s the fact that the two men genuinely admire and respect each other. All that, plus Babcock has fallen in love with the city and its surrounding area. He wants his kids to go through school here, all the way to high school graduation. And one of them isn’t anywhere close to that right now.
There was a time when I, no joke, couldn’t imagine anyone managing the Tigers other than Sparky Anderson. But after the team was purchased by Mike Ilitch in 1992, and it became clear that the new regime didn’t hold Sparky in as high of a regard as the Tom Monaghan ownership did, then the “name game” began.
It no longer was, “Will Sparky ever not manage the Tigers?”
It became, “So, who’ll be the next Tigers manager?”
I find myself not being able to imagine someone else prowling behind the Red Wings’ bench, besides Mike Babcock.
He’s dug in deep here, and with the way the Red Wings replenish old talent with new, there’s no reason to think that the team will suffer through any significant “down” years. At least not in the near future.
So why not stick with Babcock and see if he can be a sort of poor man’s Scotty Bowman?
The Red Wings could do worse, you know.