Is Mike Babcock Actually an Upgrade on Randy Carlyle? #MyColumn:

It has been an exciting and eventful summer in Toronto, with the
Maple Leafs reshaping their organization from top-to-bottom. From scouts
to players to management, Brendan Shanahan has left no stone unturned
in his quest to turn the Leafs into a consistently competitive
franchise. But no move has had people as excited as the hiring of Mike
Babcock.
Babcock
has been regarded as one of the best coaches in hockey – if not the
Best Coach in Hockey – for years now, and a lot of it has to do with his
consistent success at every level he has coached at. And yet, the
previous Leafs coach, who also had a history of winning, was slandered
by everyone – especially the media. In fact, the media should apologize for their harsh treatment of Carlyle, but that’s for another time.
People loved the firing of Carlyle and loved the hiring of Babcock. They argue that Babcock is a vastly superior coach. I beg to differ. But it’s not just a baseless opinion.
Let’s look at some facts.
Mike
Babcock has won a Stanley Cup. He won it in the 2007-08 season. Randy
Carlyle has also won a Stanley Cup? He won it the previous season, in
2006-07. A common argument against Carlyle has been that the style of
coaching he preaches doesn’t translate to today’s game, since he last
won so long ago. Is the one year difference between his and Babcock’s
Cups that substantial?
Worth
mentioning, is that Randy Carlyle won his Stanley Cup in his second
year of coaching. It took Mike Babcock six seasons before he won his.
Four years is a lot more substantial than one. That’s a very impressive
feat for Carlyle.
Of course, Randy Carlyle’s Cup-winning team was stacked. We know this. But
For all the talk of Carlyle only winning a Cup because of having a
roster that included future Hall of Famers Chris Pronger, Scott
Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, as well as (at the time) future stars like
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and an in-his-prime Jean-Sebastien Giguere,
no one talks about how Babcock won his Cup. That 07-08 team featured
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, and
Brian Rafalski, plus a very well-balanced supporting cast. And don’t
forget Chris Osgoode, who put up a .930 sv% in the playoffs that year.
Babcock still deserves credit, of course, but you can’t say Carlyle was
lucky and Babcock wasn’t. Goes both ways.
And
sure, there is one thing Babcock has done that Carlyle hasn’t – win an
Olympic Gold. But guess what? I could win an Olympic Gold with that
roster. Let’s also not forget that Babcock’s Canadians barely got by
Latvia in that tournament. He forcefit Chris Kunitz onto the top line,
which was damaging. If there is one thing Carlyle would have done
better, it’s play players where they should play.
Carlyle
did all he could with the players he was given. Nonis, without any
noted prompt from Carlyle, got rid of a bunch of great players
(Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur), and brought in numerous bad players
(too long a list to name). Is that Carlyle’s fault? Babcock wouldn’t
have gotten anything more out of that lineup. Now, management is finally
working on acquiring good and young players, and Babcock is going to
get the benefit.
But
no difference between the two is as substantial as the fact that Babcock has never played the game (at a high level). Carlyle on the other hand?
1055 games. 647 points. 1400 PIMs. Those are the numbers of comp(l)ete
player. Of someone who gets it. Hockey isn’t just fancy Swedes and stickhandling. It’s toughness. It makes sense that Babcock would be the coach of a team in which Kyle
Dubas is an important part – they’re both nerds that rely more on
the numbers in a spreadsheet than the numbers on a jersey.
I
don’t want to veer too far off track – this isn’t to slag Mike Babcock.
He seems like a solid coach and a decent guy. But his track record does
not speak as highly as some would lead you to believe – the same group
that have tossed Randy Carlyle down the side of a cliff, waiting for an
eighteen wheeler to fly off and crush him. The differences between the
two aren’t that great on paper, and for today’s new-age hockey fan that
only looks at websites filled with numbers and percentages, that doesn’t
bode well.
Where Babcock could be better than Carlyle is in the intangibles, but those don’t exist.
  • jimbobray

    I always thought that Nonis should have been long gone before Carlyle, but the powers that be did it the other way around. Carlyle and Babcock both have pretty good records in terms of wins and losses and playoff exposure so not much difference there. The big factor may have been embracing the analytics, which Babcock liked and Carlyle did not. Babcock is supposedly a new era coach, Carlyle is not.

  • Leafydudetwitter

    “Nonis, without any noted prompt from Carlyle, got rid of a bunch of great players (Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur)…”

    I think the prompt would be how Carlyle deployed them, no? I would encourage you to look back at how Wilson used that trio of players, compared to how Carlyle did. Night and day.
    Let’s not kid ourselves (and the last thing I want to do is defend Nonis, but…), it was Caryle who wanted Grabbo and Mac gone, not Nonis.

    Carlyle also insisted on dressing face punchers, which forced him to gas players like Kessel and Bozak who simply aren’t built to play 20 minutes a night.

    Babcock will deploy 4 lines and not waste roster spots on people who can’t skate. That will be the biggest difference.

      • I don’t understand why you’d call it abstract or magical.
        It’s pretty well documented.

        Horachek’s usage? I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make by even mentioning him.
        Regardless, his sample size is too small.

  • CMpuck

    I always thought Babcock should have won more cups with that team (Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterburg etc) and more in line with what the Hawks have managed so far with a similarly talented core. That would be a more impressive resume.

    That said, the wings were more consistent during Babcock’s coaching tenure with consistent playoff appearances compared to any of Randy’s teams (ducks or leafs) which varied wildly in performance. Part of that inconsistency could be the result of the large turnover in talent particularly the cost savings tear down after winning the cup on the ducks. And later on the leafs with the loss of Grabbo and Macarthur.

    But keep in mind that Babcock wouldn’t play a young Quincey and wanted to play a more veteran player (Lebda) who as it turns out was on the ice for the goal that cost Babcock winning a second cup. Later the wings would trade a first round pick to acquire Quincey who they waived previously. But to be fair, the wings did get the cup finals that year whereas Randy collapsed during that full season after making the playoffs.

    And finally, I agree I’m not sure what the olympics tell us, as Ron Wilson won a silver medal and we saw what he managed with the leafs.

    Babcock for me is superior coach to Randy but I’m not sure he is all that the media make him out to be.

  • Leafydudetwitter

    I have learned not to bother reading your dreck. Thought to give you a fifth chance to see if you are here to provide sarcastic commentary. Even if that is the case, which I doubt, you remain the only author I will continue to disregard entirely. I do not see the value you bring. It’s not that I disagree with the point of every article you write, although I do, I just don’t see what you are adding to the conversation.

  • jimbobray

    It wasn’t until about the third last paragraph that I actually thought to look at who the author was. I wasn’t until the part about Carlyle playing at a high level and “fancy Swedes” that I clued in that this might be a Cappuccino piece. Until that point, Cappo actually made some pretty solid points (not to say he didn’t have at least a little one in the aforementioned paragraph) and I would like to commend him for his progression from his original drivel. Their is still a part of the character he used to write as in this piece but its not nearly as hard to read. At the very least, he was able to find the shift key on his keyboard. And for that, I say “Bravo”!

  • Harte of a Lion

    I think your drinking something stronger than Cappuccino. Fancy Swedws and stick handling? Give me a frickin break!
    Carlyle may have played a ton of games but he also finished his career a -109. The year he scored 83 points he was -16.
    I am not saying that + – stats give the total picture but even as a Norris Trophy winner, he couldn’t keep the puck out of the net.

    This is the worst article you have ever written.
    Justin Fisher, instead of firing Babcock, fire Bobby Cappuccino.

  • BEDay

    Personally, I’m glad someone finally wrote this article. It has long needed to be said that Randy was ‘hoist upon the petard’ that belonged to Dave Nonis. There is a philosophical idea found in the work of Rene Girard known as “Scapegoating”, this theory is well worth the read but not necessary, as we all understand the endgame. Randy took a beating that someone else deserved…bottom line. If Babcock is to make a difference in Toronto, where Carlyle supposedly did not, it will be because management has changed and the mindset of the organization has changed with it; not because Babcock is a vastly superior coach. In my opinion, the Leafs owe Carlyle an apology for sending him down with the ship while the rats were already safely aboard the life rafts.

  • Gary Empey

    I plan to hold my opinion on Babcock until I see who makes the team and how well they play together.

    If we are going to apologize to Carlyle, must we also apologize to Peter Horachek for ruining his chances of ever getting another NHL job?

    The one major flaw in this article is when refering to Chris Kunitz spot on Bsbock’s Olympic Gold roster Cappuccino used the word “forcefit”.

    This would be challenged in any scrabble game.

  • CMpuck

    Yawns, Babcock is pretty well an upgrade on any coach in the league.

    Here’s a better question, was Horachek and his savvy advanced stats friendly approach an upgrade on Carlyle?

    Maybe Carlyle understood his team’s limitations and did a good job of patching them up to the point the Leafs gave a contender in the Bruins a run for their money well until choke chode Reimer blew it.

    But it’s all Randy’s fault, it’s not on Kadri who his career year under Carlyle, or James who career year under Carlyle, or Kessel…. ect…

    Randy sucks and the Leafs are AWESOME….

    Deep analysis, oh wait a dry troll job is the best the smarks can drum up

  • CMpuck

    We have to look no further than what is happening over at the old ball park to see how much a talented team can improve the record of a coach or manager. Case in point, the Toronto Blue Jays who thanks for Rogers opening the vault have the strongest team in 20 years. Surprise the new comers with the solid core they had on the team before trading dead line has vaulted the team into first place in their division. John Gibbons can for the first time play poker from a position of strength as was shown by his out managing Joe Girardi last weekend. Let me put that into capitals for leaf fans. FIRST PLACE FOR THE JAYS IN MID AUGUST. That time of year in a leaf season has seen the 18 wheeler three quarters already off the cliff.

    The coffee gopher had some solid points as I defy anyone to be able to coach that gaggle of country club guys.

    Bottom line Babcock’s winning percentage as a coach will take a beating as he attempts to bring the leafs back to respectability and into the playoffs.

    Btw I hope the young crowd in here who weren’t around when leaping Lou became a G.M., obviously wouldn’t remember the Jays glory years are excited about a Toronto team taking baseball by storm.

  • If that bit about ‘fancy Swedes and stickhandling’ was supposed to be a ‘clue’ to us to not take the rest of the article seriously, which I’m sure it was, then maybe you should have abstained from making a bunch of very valid points about Carlyle’s merit as a coach.

    Carlyle was a good coach who never got a chance to do his thing in Toronto, not because Nonis screwed him but because Nonis didn’t himself get a chance to, together with his coach, build a team that Carlyle could win with. Carlyle inherited Ron Wilson’s team and, by the time he was beginning to assemble a roster that could play well for him, Shannahan came in and handcuffed Nonis.

    MacArthur, Grabo and Kuli are not great players and were not worth the money they were getting paid or wanted to get paid – players like that are now getting one/two year contracts for 1/2 mil per and are a dime a dozen.

    As for facepunchers there are plenty of teams that won with facepunchers in the lineup and the Leafs’ best showing in the last decade and the only playoffs appearance came with facepunchers in the lineup.

    Carlyle won his Cup with his style of coaching and beat Babcock’s team in a season series this year (by the way, it would probably be a good exercise for one of you numbercrunchers to figure out what the two coaches head-to-head record is). Babcock won his Cup coaching his style of play. The difference is that Carlyle had to deal with an unstable (in more ways than one) management/ownership group and that Babcock hopefully won’t have to look over his shoulder for at least a few years.

    The debate over who is better is kind of pointless. They are both very good. Carlyle ran into a management group that hates his style of coaching and, along with the rest of the management/coaching staff, had his career destroyed. Babcock was hired as a saviour. If he succeeds it will be, not because he’s a miracle-worker or a better coach than Carlyle, but because he will get a chance to do his thing in a stable and supportive environment. If he fails, conversely, it will be because the entire machine breaks down again and he is denied the opportunity to work in peace.

  • SEER

    Bobby… Not to be rude here, but do you drink your Cappuccino , or smoke it..?

    REALLY..????

    Go back and watch the HBO 24/7 winter classic series.. and see how Carlyle “talks at” his team.., while Babs talks “to/with his team”.. and then tell me who you would play harder for..

    Look at the achievements from both coaches.. and ask ANY NHL player who they think is the better coach.. and why… RC had a very short string of successes, compared to Babs.. and I don’t think there is another coach in the NHL that has gotten his teams to the playoffs as much as Babs has..

    He develops younger players.., knows how to treat his vets… and can motivate every one of them… I’ve never heard one player, publicly put Babcock down.. Can you say the same things about RC..? Nope…

  • CMpuck

    This is the best troll column yet Bobby! Your ideas are just believable enough to foster debate and really get people riled up. Well done sir, you have just produced a master class in trolling.

  • CMpuck

    How come when cappucino talks zingoism nonsense about fancy swedes no gives him the Dog Cherry Alpo treatment?

    And dont’ give me it was a joke, sarcasm or for entertainment.

  • CMpuck

    Carlyle did all he could with the players he was given. Nonis, without any noted prompt from Carlyle, got rid of a bunch of great players (Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur), and brought in numerous bad players (too long a list to name).

    How do you know there was no prompting, and how do you know that Carlyle did not direct Nonis as to who to bring in.

    The point about Carlyle having played games is…stupid, that would make Gretzky the best coach ever (he wasn’t) and how do you know what Babcock relies on when coaching?

    Babcock’s teams have always made the playoffs even when half were from the AHL due to injuries. Regardless of lineups or players Randy never changed his style to suit the team he had. years of the same coach systems even though it was clear it wasn’t working.