Over the last 24-hours, the race to acquire Mike Babcock seems to have narrowed to two teams: Buffalo and Detroit. The Leafs remained in the mix, but insiders like Friedman were starting to push them out of contention, based on what they were hearing. This morning TSN’s Bob McKenzie basically put the fork in Toronto as a landing spot for the surprisingly not-so-heavily sought after coach.
On Detroit holding on to Babcock (via TSN690 in Montreal):
I think all the signs are pointing to that. But until such time that he makes the announcement, you always allow for possibility something comes out of left field. He’s definitely not coming to Toronto.
There’s still somewhat of a chain reaction that could play out here. Toronto has been linked to the Red Wings’ minor league coach, Jeff Blashill, who they could pluck out of Grand Rapids if Babcock stays in Detroit. However, if Babcock bolts to Buffalo, the Wings could simply promote Blashill themselves and block the Leafs from scooping him up. The Wings have prevented teams from speaking with Blashill in the past, but they likely won’t be able to stop him from taking the step to the next level if they lock up Babcock to a long term deal.
Simply put, if Blashill is your guy, you want Babcock to remain with the Wings.
It’s difficult to say how much Shanahan and the rest of the Leafs’ front office were really focused on Babcock, as they never seemed like frontrunners, and have been linked to a number of other coaches in their current search; notably Blashill, Paul MacLean, Guy Boucher, Pete DeBoer, and most recently Sheldon Keefe, though the latter is believed to be in an assistant or minor league role.