The Toronto Maple Leafs are lacking a head coach. Oh, and a few assistants. A general manager too, and several sc…okay, there are so few people remaining that a certain former TheLeafsNation dot com writer is probably near the top of the food chain right now. It’s very clear that of these roles, the head coaching position is the biggest void, but this won’t turn into a multi-horse race until the Triple Crown prize is off the market.
Of course, I’m referring to Mike Babcock. Now that Detroit’s season is done, there’s a bit of speculation swirling as to where his future lies.
Bob McKenize was on TSN 1040 Vancouver yesterday, and picked Edmonton as the favourite for his services if he decided to leave Detroit.
“Also the fact, and it’s not just Connor McDavid, but for all the jokes we make about the Edmonton Oilers, and rightfully so because they’ve been a tire fire for eight or nine years now, the reality is as you look at that team, while they still have significant pieces to put together, goaltending, defence, this thing is a lot closer to coming together than falling apart. That is for sure.”
If Babcock looked at the Toronto Maple Leafs, he might think that “this tire fire is just getting started,” McKenzie said.
Pierre Lebrun echoed the same sentiments on TSN 1050 Toronto’s Leafs Lunch today, while also giving higher lenience in favour of Buffalo than Bob.
“I think, at the end of the day, the two teams that would really keep an eye on are Buffalo and Edmonton because of different connections. Tim Murray, the Buffalo connection. In Edmonton, obviously, Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli worked with him at the Olympics. So they’re important connections. We all know who is going to be drafted in Edmonton too so, I think those are the two teams intriguing to me as far as if he does ever decide to leave, going somewhere where he’s getting in on the ground up.”
While Darren Dreger also likes Edmonton’s chances, he hasn’t entirely ruled out the Leafs yet.
In the meantime, Edmonton, Toronto, Buffalo and Philadelphia are ready for the auction to begin. Each club’s brass likely prepped for a sales pitch laced with glowing roster reports and promise of strategies in play to swiftly develop their team into Stanley Cup contenders. Each will dole out the ingredients and suggest Babcock is the only thing missing from the recipe.
We’re constantly reminded the Toronto Maple Leafs are willing to pay whatever is necessary. However, staying in Detroit and embracing a renovation seems more likely than signing on for a full-scale demolition and multi-year rebuild with the Leafs.
There’s obviously a lot at play here. Babcock wants to join an organization that is assured to win in the future, and having a promising core that just added a generational talent is a heck of a head start, which Edmonton has, and to an extent, Buffalo will have as well. At the same time, the Leafs have a mixture of decent prospects, core roster players, and an eagerness to build.
While Babcock isn’t one of the league’s youngest coaches anymore, he still has a lot of gas in the tank at 52 years old. The Leafs may take an extra year or two of management decisions to get to a seriously competitive level than the other teams in the hunt, but at the end of the day, there is a higher reward for success in Toronto. Anybody remotely associated to this team when they next win the Stanley Cup will be immortalized, and that could be the icing on the cake for Babcock’s already rock-solid legacy. Plus, the financial incentive is there.
With all of this said, it’s still far too early. Babcock hasn’t requested to speak to other teams yet, so we’re still spitballing at this point. Ultimately, it’s a decision that he’ll make for himself, and there’s no guarantee that the reasoning behind it will even make sense. The wise thing to do would be to sit back and let this play out a bit further before getting emotionally invested.