Mike Babcock obliterates the NHL coaching payscale

I was shocked to hear of the $50 million USD 8 year deal former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock signed with the Leafs yesterday (the $50 M is really $60 M in Canadian funds).  $6.25 M per year for 8 years when the day before the highest paid NHL coach was ‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville at $3 M per.  Coach Q has 2 Cups to his credit and a few superstars on his team in Chicago.

The Babcock negotiation and discussion played out in the media going back to second half of last season where reports were Wings GM Ken Holland wanted to lock up Babock before his contract expired.  Babcock wanted to wait and see what his options were.

I’m sure other NHL coaches were all very interested observers in how this negotiation would go as it did have a chance to set a new pay scale for NHL coaches and, in fact, it did.

I now wonder how much is the GM vs the coach worth and is possibly the coach worth more than the GM?  The coach is with the players every day and draws up the game plan for each game and takes ultimate accountability for wins and losses.  Also, many NHL franchises are going to the model of a President of Hockey, a General Manager, 2 assistant GM’s and a coach.  There is no NHL front office salary cap but after this the NHL may need one.

Detroit wanted Babcock but, in the end, it came down to the 2 highest bidders: Buffalo Sabres and their billionaire owner Terry Peguila and his offer vs the Maple Leafs offer.  Sources say the two offers were similar with Babcock choosing Toronto saying his wife liked Toronto and the vibrant nature of that city a bit more.

It’s not Shanahan’s decision here, clearly – it’s ownership and they decided to throw all the money they could at Babcock and it worked.

Is Babcock going to turn around the Leafs and is it worth it to pay your coach $50M over 8 years when the roster did not yield good results the past few seasons?  Does not the roster need to change not the coach?

Babcock has 1 NHL Stanley Cup to his credit.  In the past five seasons in Detroit, he got out the first round twice losing in the second round both times.  He’s had very good teams in Detroit.  Yes, he has the Olympics success but he had a stacked team of superstar NHL talent.

The Leafs are like the Yankees (and maybe New York Rangers) – there is their money and budget and the rest of the league.  The rest of the league can’t afford to give a coach $50 million over 8 years.

I could see if the Leafs were on the cusp of making a run but last season was a complete disaster and I ask who are they building around?

Kessel and Phaneuf are mentioned in trade so it’s not clear they are long for the Leafs organization.  Who does that leave as cornerstones?  Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly and James van Riemsdyk.  They don’t really have a #1 goalie. How many season’s before this team makes the playoffs?  If you want to win a round and go out like I believe this team may achieve in best case over the next 2 – 5 years, do you need to throw $50 M at a coach.

Babcock has not proven, based on his results, he is worth $50 M.  It seems, to me, like a desperate move by an organization drunk with money.  No coach can get wine from a stone.  Joel Quenneville looks down the bench and has two future Hall of Famers in Toews and Kane plus Duncan Keith.  Babcock doesn’t have that.  He had Lidstrom and superstar Pavel Datsyk for years and won 1 Cup.

On the positive side anyone that works in the Detroit organization for any length of time is a winner.  People learn to win and do things the right way there.  Look at Steve Yzerman GM of Tampa Bay and Jim Nill, Dallas Stars GM.  Wings GM Ken Holland is a class act and I can only assume it comes from the direction and leadership style of Mike and Marion Illitch the Red Wings owners.  Babcock is a straight shooter and, no question, he knows how to win.  He knows what he wants from the players and the standards are super high.  The analytic freaks like him because Detroit’s possession numbers are consistently near the top of the league.  To me, one his most valuable assets is his experience being around a winning organization in Detroit for the past 10 seasons and he’ll bring that into Toronto.  But he’ll need decent on-ice talent in Toronto to make a difference in the standings.

Overall, I think it’s stupid money by a team that turns a huge profit even if they ice a crappy team.  I don’t think with the roster as it is now Babcock will turn this team around anymore than if the Leafs bought a coach for the previous highest paid NHL coach price of $3 M over, say, a 3 or 5 year (standard NHL coach contract) deal.

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