Okay, so Lou probably hasn’t even cleaned out his office yet, and he’s barely done his press conference, but it’s time to start talking about who his successor will be. The two most obvious candidates are Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter. After that one of the experienced assistant GMs around the league like Paul Fenton, Mike Futa, Kelly McCrimmon, Julien Brisebois, or Tom Fitzgerald all warrant some consideration. I don’t feel like focusing on the obvious candidates, I’d prefer to talk about the darkhorse candidate that is Mike Babcock.
This leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn’t it? It probably should, but I don’t want to discount it from the possibilities in this process. There’s some good to it, and it’s not like the Leafs didn’t have a similar set up with Pat Quinn during some of the best years over the past twenty years, but yeah, it generally seems like a bad idea. So let’s look at this through the pros and cons.
PRO: The coach has complete control over the lineup and has absolute authority to bring in the players who will work best in his system.
CON: Most Leafs fans generally don’t like the same players that Mike Babcock likes. He likes Luke Glendennig, and Roman Polak and both of those players are bad news. Mike Babcock in his dual role also wouldn’t have time to scout players and if he’s going his own way over the advice of analysts and scouts, this could be a messy situation.
PRO: Let’s assume that Mike Babcock isn’t taking this on in a dual role, rather wants to move up to the GM office, Mike Babcock would be very capable of finding a coach to continue along with the system he has put in place already, and could identify the players who work in that system seemingly better than anyone else.
CON: The running theme here should be that Mike Babcock is a pretty darn good coach, but linecards and player usage aren’t his particular strengths. Being a GM is just that on a larger scale.
PRO: He’s a prestige name attached to the GM position, and he’d have little difficulty finding his place in the old boys club of the NHL GM world. He’s worked enough with Lou Lamoriello and Ken Holland to know what he’s getting into.
CON: He doesn’t have any experience drafting, making trades, signing free agents, or negotiating with his own players. For Babcock to be successful he’d need a strong group like Pridham, Dubas, and Hunter to help them, but if Dubas or Hunter aren’t replacing Lou, it’s safe to say they’ll pursue one of the other opportunities available this summer.
PRO: A coach’s perspective is something we haven’t seen in a GM for a while. At least not in a recent GM, it was a lot more common in previous decades. Maybe someone with recent experience close to the ice is a competitive edge over the rest of the league.
CON: Mike Babcock isn’t likely to spend the entire summer trying to get rid of Nikita Zaitsev, and that’s the trait I want most in a GM. There may also be some additional loyalty to guys like Roman Polak and Leo Komarov, which would make me cry.
PRO: Babcock could be a decision to give him more control over aspects of his own roster, but ultimately this comes with greater involvement from Brendan Shanahan. Dubas, Hunter, and Pridham all take on greater roles, and everything continues essentially as we’ve seen it work over the past few years.
CON: He may want players to have even less hair than Lamoriello was allowing.
Listen, I don’t think Mike Babcock is a good choice, but he’d be an interesting choice and ultimately I want sports to be interesting. Part of me has always wondered if Babcock taking the job in Toronto was based in him getting the opportunity to pursue a front office gig, but the reality is it was probably about the money and we’re just waiting for Brendan Shanahan to do his due diligence on Kyle Dubas and try to find a way of appeasing Mark Hunter, so he can keep as much of his band together as possible.