Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Forman Files - Mike Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Mega 8-Year Deal

Mike Babcock has been signed to an 8-year, $50 million contract to be the next Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. EIGHT YEAR, FIFTY MILLION! No that wasn't a typo or a mistake, MLSE put all their cards on the table with this flat out gutsy and incredible deal. So much credit to Brendan Shanahan for getting Mike Babcock, arguably the best Head Coach in the NHL, to sign with the re-building Leafs. Babcock is the type of Coach that everyone wants to play for, and this will be so important for the Leafs during a time of uncertainty and rebuilding in Toronto. Simply put Babcock loves to win, his Stanley Cup and 2 Olympic Gold Medals in the last 7 years are a testament to that. In 12 years as a Head Coach with the Ducks and Red Wings he missed the playoffs just once, in comparison the Leafs only made the playoffs 3 of the last 12 years and once in the last 10 years. In this article I will take a closer look at Mike Babcock as a Head Coach and his impact on the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Coaching Statistics and Career Information:
To start off let's look at Mike Babcock's Professional Coaching Career which started with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks Organization:

Mike Babcock has been about as successful as any Head Coach in the last 10 years. Since the 2005-2006 season when he took over in Detroit he has picked up an incredible 458 wins. Those Detroit teams of the mid-2000s were a force year after year, led by the steady presence of Niklas Lidstrom and superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Babcock was the face of consistency in the NHL, he expected nothing but success and a strong work ethic from all of his players. While his Detroit teams of the last 5-6 years have fallen a bit from the powerhouse they once were, they always managed to stay competitive and so much of that can be attributed to Babcock as a Coach. And while his Red Wings haven't won a Cup since 2008, he has led 2 Canadian Olympic teams to Gold Medal since 2010. He led the Canadians to Gold in Vancouver in 2010, and backed it up with Gold again in Sochi in 2014. 
Babcock with Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics
Career Timeline:
This next part is from
A look at the career of Mike Babcock, who was named coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday:
1986 -- Graduated with a degree in physical education from McGill University, where he played defense and served as captain of the hockey team. He also did some post-graduate work in sports psychology at McGill.
1987-88 -- Served as player-coach of the Whitley Warriors of the British Premier League. He had 34 goals and 132 points in 36 games; the Warriors finished two points out of first place.

1988-91 -- Coached at Red Deer College. His team won the Alberta College championship in 1989, and he was named coach of the year.
1991-93 -- Coached the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. His teams went 60-78-6 in two seasons; they lost in the first round of the WHL playoffs in 1992 and didn't qualify in 1993.
1993-94 -- Spent one season coaching the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. He led the team to the CIS University Cup and was named CIS coach of the year.
1994-2000 -- Coached the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. Babcock was named coach of the year in 1996 and 2000 after leading his team to first place in the Western Division and into the WHL Finals.
1997 -- Coached Canada internationally for the first time at the World Junior Championship in Switzerland. Canada won the gold medal, defeating the United States in the championship game.
2000-02 -- Moved to the pros when he was named coach of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League. Cincinnati, the AHL affiliate of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Detroit Red Wings, had a 74-59-20-7 record under Babcock and qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of his two seasons.
2002-04 -- Was named coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on May 22, 2002. Led Anaheim to the best season in franchise history in 2002-03 (40-27-9-6, 95 points); the Mighty Ducks advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the New Jersey Devils. However, they did not qualify for the playoffs in 2003-04; this is the only time in his pro career that a Babcock-coached team failed to make the postseason.
2004 -- Coached Canada at the IIHF World Championship in Prague. Canada went 7-1-1 and defeated Sweden to win the gold medal. Babcock became the first coach to lead Canada to the title at the World Juniors and the World Championship.
2005 -- Named coach of the Detroit Red Wings on July 15, 2005.
2008 -- Led the Red Wings to the 11th Stanley Cup in franchise history and the fourth since 1997. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Final.
2009 -- Coached the Red Wings to the Western Conference championship and a second straight berth in the Stanley Cup Final, where they were defeated by the Penguins in seven games.
2010 -- Led Canada to the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics, capped by a 3-2 overtime victory against the United States in the championship game. Babcock became the only coach to join the Triple Gold Club; members have won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal and a World Championship.
2014 -- Coached Canada to the gold medal at the Sochi Olympics. His team allowed three goals while going 6-0 and defeating Sweden in the championship game.
2015 -- Led the Red Wings to their 24th consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and their 10th in his 10 seasons with Detroit. The Red Wings lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Money/Salary Implications of Babcock's Deal:
The most obvious thing to note in this Babcock deal is that he will be making the most money of any Head Coach in NHL history. To put this into retrospect Todd McLellan just got hired by the Edmonton Oilers the other day, a solid Head Coach, and it was reported he was making around $2-2.5 million a year. Babcock will make $50 million over 8 years including $24 million in the first 3 years of the deal. I wonder how this will impact future Head Coaches being signed, especially the big name guys. Even more shocking about this deal is the fact that Babcock is going to be making NHL Superstar money, which is almost unheard of in the NHL. Babcock will reportedly make $8 million a season for the first 3 years of the deal. If you look at the top salary cap hits from the 2014-15 season, it would put Babcock (at $8 million) in a tie for 10th in the NHL:

2014/15 NHL Top Salary Cap Hits
Before this Babcock deal NHL Coaches really didn't make more than $2-3 million a year, and that was for the best ones in the NHL. I am a big supporter of Babcock, I think he is a phenomenal Head Coach and is one of the best in the business, but I can't help but scratch my head at this amount he is making. I can see a lot of other NHL teams being unhappy with the Leafs here, he's making considerably more money than any other Head Coach in the NHL. Now the Leafs will argue that in order to get the right man for the job they paid the price by any means necessary, and for that reason I justify Babcock earning this deal. Either way it will cause a stir in the NHL community, especially from current and previous Head Coaches.
Babcock chatting with (former) GM Ken Holland and (current) GM Brendan Shanahan at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia
Impact on the Current/Future State of the Leafs Roster:
Now as much as Mike Babcock is a phenomenal coach, this does not instantly fix the many problems the Leafs have. The fact of the matter is that the Leafs are still in a rebuilding mode with or without Babcock, things have been alterred now that he is on board. The most important thing that Babcock brings to the Leafs organization is the attraction that he has to lure players to play for him. He is considered the best coach in the game today and simply put people want to play for Mike Babcock. Now in the last few years it has been the opposite in Toronto; simply put people don't want to play in Toronto. The Toronto Maple Leafs have such a historic franchise with so many great teams, but the fact of the matter is that the Leafs have been struggling since the lockout in 2004-2005 (making the playoffs just 1 time in 10 years). 
This recent string of playoff-less hockey has led to a lot of uncertainty for the future of the Leafs, and it seems that players are staying away/wanting to be traded from Toronto. There is an immense amount of pressure to win in this city, and this is where I believe Babcock comes in and makes a crucial difference than other Head Coaches before him didn't. Babcock has that ability to change the perception players feel about Toronto, he will make them want to come instead of worrying about the added pressures of playing for the Blue and White. It will be an interesting summer for the Leafs in terms of attracting free agents.
The next thing to address with Babcock is how he feels about the current roster, in particular the stars/core of the team. There is a lot of question marks surrounding who will stay and who will go, and it will be interesting to see if Babcock has changed some of those plans. The following players are the important pieces the Leafs have right now:
Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander
Some of these guys are the future of the Leafs and will definitely not be traded (Gardiner, Rielly, and Nylander). I can't see the Leafs moving either Phil Kessel or James van Riemsdyk, as much as they both struggled this year they are two important pieces for the future and I can see both of these players thriving under Babcock. If I were Shanahan I would seriously consider trying to trade Bozak, Lupul, Phaneuf and Kadri and make some serious changes towards the better for the future. The Leafs have to address their lack of depth at Center and on the wing, and these will be the pieces they can use to trade. It will be interesting to see which of these players will stay and which will get traded now that Babcock is here
Babcock with Sidney Crosby and Steve Yzerman at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
Final Thoughts:
I can't help but love this deal for the Leafs, Mike Babcock is a one of a kind Head Coach and being able to bring him on board during a time of trouble and uncertainty is a major step for the Leafs Organization. Brendan Shanahan has been bold and strong since being hired by the Leafs, and signing Babcock was just the next biggest step in his plan to turn around this historic organization. The Leafs certainly paid the price to get Babcock, but in my opinion he is worth every dollar and Toronto is lucky to have him. Now only time will tell to see what kind of an impact Babcock has in Toronto, but for the mean time Leaf fans have something positive to celebrate and look forward to.
Leaf Fans are hoping Babcock can bring home one of these in the near future

-Joel Forman - The Forman Faceofff

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