Babcock’s Assistant Coach History

As I hinted to yesterday in my post on Babcock and as Shawn
hinted to in his article on the prior day, one of the next big questions is who
will Mike Babcock name as his assistant coaches? Will Babcock be making frantic
calls to Ken Holland to free up his assistants? Will Paul MacLean see a Brinks
truck of MLSE money and telecommunications share pull up in front of his house
this morning? As luck would have it, Dan Rosen of NHL.com wrote an
excellent article on Mike Babcock’s assistants
, his process, and their
successes back in October, and it’s filled with insight and even more optimism.
I strongly recommend going to read the whole thing as it has a lot on Babcock’s
coaching philosophy as well, but of course, here are the highlights.

“We’re about
developing people,” Babcock said. “We look to hire people who are
going to be head coaches.”

In the era of
compensation for coaches can you think of anything better than Mike Babcock
turning Toronto into a coach factory? The Leafs are not only going to enjoy a
similar pipeline to what Detroit current has with Blashill and Granato, but now
get to reap the rewards that Detroit did not when Paul MacLean, Todd McLellan,
and Bill Peters all landed NHL gigs.

“Any CEO in any
business that does a good job has a succession plan,” he said.
Babcock has been CEO of Detroit’s coaching staff for nine years. He’s had to
make changes about every two or three years. He had to replace his entire
staff, including his video coach, after last season.”

A coach that follows
sound business practices instead of just relying on Hockey knowledge. Perhaps
this is the advantage of hiring a McGill graduate instead of someone who spent
his career avoiding wearing head protection. With the speculation that Sheldon
Keefe is part of the Leafs plans (likely as the Marlies Head Coach) and with so
many significant issues with the Leafs for addressing, the idea of Babcock
imparting his wisdom on the organizations coaches is one of the reasons why you
give him $50M over 8 years. Essentially the Leafs have hired a Professor of
coaching who will graduate an organization of PhD’s over his time here.

“Mike
has identified some people that he thought were top people in college, junior
or in the American Hockey League and brought them here,” Holland said.
“Mike has his own program in place that obviously has been a pretty
successful program coming through the Western Hockey League, the American
Hockey League, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and now Detroit. He has been able
to identify some younger people that he thinks have passion, have a work ethic,
have that something that can develop into an NHL head coach. We have been the
benefactors of that.”

This
certainly should answer the question of who will lead the coaching search for
the organization. Not that this is out of the ordinary and the coach often has
the say on his staff, but as high as the Leafs may be on Sheldon Keefe, it’s
unlikely he gets hired without meeting with Babcock.

“I
really believe in the process and the network I have,” Babcock said.
“I was at the Memorial Cup and I was with Ron Robison, the head of the
Western Hockey League; David Branch, the head of the Ontario Hockey League; and
Gilles Courteau, the head of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. All I say
is, ‘Who are your best coaches?'”

Uhhhh…
This is pretty great. So you have the heads of junior leagues scouting for you,
and then you have MLSE’s checkbook to outbid any other potential suitors. I
think our days of Keith Acton, Dave Farrish and Greg Cronin are over.

“Babcock’s interest
in coaches goes beyond up-and-comers. He has been known to invite recently
fired coaches to work with the Red Wings on a just-in-case basis.

Ken Hitchcock was
asked to join the Red Wings after he was fired by the Columbus
Blue Jackets and
before he went to the St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock passed
on the opportunity.”

At this point if you aren’t completely in love with how
Babcock builds a bench, I can’t help you. While I’d imagine the Leafs will want
some kind of staff in place prior to the Prospect tournament following the
draft, I wouldn’t be surprised if Babcock keeps one bench spot open for someone
like Guy Boucher or Paul MacLean who didn’t find a head coaching gig this
summer. Of course, the benefits here are adding another another world class
coach and probably a third round pick somewhere down the line.

As I mentioned
earlier, read the full
article
by Rosen as it discusses how wide Babcock’s contact network is, his
Rob and Do approach to improving systems, and the amount of autonomy he gives
to those who work for him. In addition to McLellan, MacLean, and Peters,
Blashill will soon be another Babcock graduate to head coaching gig, and others
like McCrimmon and Renney also benefitted from their time with Babcock. The
article doesn’t really help us narrow down who the potential assistants, or
Marlies coaches may be as it’s clear that Babcock looks absolutely everywhere
having pulled from junior and college ranks, as well as Hockey Canada and the
NHL in the past.

My own speculation
after reading this is that I’d expect one experienced former NHL head coach to
join Babcock behind the bench next season. I also think that Sheldon Keefe may
be a Babcock NHL assistant next year prior to planning on moving him to the
Marlies in the near the future, but that’s based solely on what happened with
Blashill. Also with Babcock’s familial ties to the Western Hockey League, I
wouldn’t be surprised if that resource is tapped, as the Leafs could benefit by
added someone of Kelly McCrimmon’s pedigree to the organization.

  • Gary Empey

    Where’s all the fans input on this site? Clearly no one cares, even after making a big splash by hiring Babcock. 6 posts all morning in a city of over 4 million. Speaks volumes on what the people think of the Leafs. the proof is in the pudding. Sad

  • Jeremy Ian

    Great job Shany, Mark Welcome Mike This was great not to know how close MLSE was to having the deed done with this hire a change from the past , from this we can say that these guys are working thier butts off and they are working the phones off the wall trying to make deals that will affect the on ice product, it will be nice when a deal is done and hear about it then not before love it GO LEAFS GO!!!