Coaching is a very intricate part of any sport. Making the right decisions at the right time may win you a championship, on the other side moves you make(or don’t make) could cost you your job. For me coaching is a what have you done for me lately type of job. The Maple Leafs signed him to a big money long term contract because of what he was able to accomplish in the past. Stanley Cup winner, Presidents trophy winner, multiple time gold medal coach for Canada at the Olympics. No wonder why Toronto wanted him as part of their management group. He has proven he can win with top level players in Detroit, Gold medals with Canada at the Olympics and this past summer with Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Is Mike Babcock the best coach in the NHL? Could he be one of the greatest coaches of all time? In my opinion yes and maybe. Lets take a look why.
Experience: His experience coaching in the NHL and in International hockey is priceless. Watching the game grow and learning where he can take advantage to make his team better.
Style: His style of play is puck possession and skill oriented which bodes well for teams with elite talent like Canada, Detroit, etc. It is a proven winning formula in this era of hockey.
Handling the media: (so far) Toronto is a hockey hot bed. It’s media puts a lot of pressure on not only players, but coaching as well. Its cost many GMs and coaches their jobs for not being able to handle the 24/7 atmosphere Toronto offers. Constant scrutiny about moves and decisions, Babcock doesn’t deal with that. He sets the tempo, what Mike Babcock says goes. Example was early this season and the whole Frederik Anderson drama. Not once did he lose faith and kept reminding the media that this was his guy no matter what. Tempering expectations with “there will be pain”. So the media and crazed Leafs fans don’t get their hopes up and plan the Cup parade in October.
Patience: This is key, this is the 1st time we are seeing Babcock start from scratch. When he joined the Leafs they were at rock bottom. No clear direction in sight, but with Babcock at the helm we have a light at the end of the tunnel. After the first season and finishing dead last there was still hope. Top prospects like Marner and Nylander could have a showing the pros the following season and the Leafs had the best chance to draft first overall. So far this season he has kept expectations low. Almost seems like he is pulling the young guys back a bit and making them learn to be better on both sides of the puck first and not worry about taking big chances to score and get points. Points will come but its better to learn right away what it takes to be a pro in the NHL and to build a solid foundation. He did that in season 1 with Rielly helping him focus more on his defensive game first.
Media(again): Although I think he handles the media like a pro. This could be his down side. He did have a small outburst with the media early this season about the teams goaltending. To me this is a one off and will happen few and far between, especially if the Leafs play continues to trend in an upward direction.
I think Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL right now and what he does with this young and talented Maple Leafs roster could set his legacy forever. He now has some elite talent to groom in Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Rielly, Zaitsev, Brown, Kadri and the list goes on and on with other top end prospects in the farm and in junior. If/When he takes this team to the top and finally helps Toronto get its 1st Stanley Cup since 1967, he will go down as the greatest Leaf coach of all time. Especially since he was here from the start of the rebuild.
Let me know what you think of Mike Babcock, Comment below or tweet me @TMLHockeytlk