Mike Babcock signed an 8 year 50 million dollar deal in Toronto. This was the headline across the board on all social media forums. That is an insane deal for a coach. I guess if the Leafs really wanted to get their man they needed to outbid the Buffalo Sabres. The poor Sabres. Just keep getting passed over. Who in their right mind would want to go to that team with the drama of a “Keeping up with a Kardashian’s” episode? Mike Babcock must love a challenge. Or must love swimming in a vault full of money.
How will the Red Wings fare? The thing about the Detroit Red Wings is that they always have a backup plan. They will not miss a beat. They have a system in place that allows them to lose a vital piece, but it will never make them crumble. Their young nucleus (Tatar, Nyquist, and DeKeyser) are nearly ready to take over for the old war horses (Datsyuk and Zetterberg.) You need to have the players in place to allow the coach to have success. The Leafs have a few of the pieces. They just lack the leadership to not allow negativity to creep in. They play in the “we want it now” market. They had to hire Babcock at all costs. He can bring some stability to this franchise.
What do you do next if you are the Leafs though? You have your man in place. Things might simmer down a bit now. Can they keep any of those pieces? You have to assume that Lupul and Phaneuf are gone. I think Kessel, Bozak, and van Riemsdyk can be kept. You just can’t have a captain that had pretty much been dealt for the back half of the year last year. Who do you choose as captain? In my opinion. You don’t have a captain. You roll with a bunch of assistants to keep the pressure off any one individual. Unless you pursue a free agent that has a wealth of dealing with this ridiculous market. I would assume that Shanahan isn’t going to go after any high priced talent while he is overhauling this team.
On the back end you have a couple of pieces. You have Rielly and Gardiner. Rielly should be part of a top pair. He could be a top 10 defensemen for years. Gardiner can bounce back. He has the skating ability and offensive prowess to make him a top power play producer. In goal they have two very solid keepers. Bernier and Reimer can both start for quite a few teams. They just need some help up front. This is probably their strongest area. Up front you have one line. Other than that you have nothing. Kadri might never be more than an average second liner with defensive liability. This is the area that they need the most help.
The major issue is that they don’t have a lot coming down the pipe. A couple of trades near the trade deadline should help that. They have always been terrible at developing talent. This might change with Babcock. Detroit has been brilliant at drafting players late and making them into top line players. This has a lot to do with scouts and Holland, but also has a lot to do with Babcock knowing where to play them to have the biggest impact. He gets the most out of his players.
Instantly this turns the Leafs from the laughing stock to something that you chuckle at. They are obviously a few years away from contending. This is a move in the right direction though. You look at the money that he got and you just shake your head. The thing about the Leafs is that they have a pile of money. This doesn’t go against their cap. He’s the best head coach in the NHL. As much as I hate to say it. This was the right decision by the Leafs.