Despite being under contract with the Detroit Red Wings until June 30, current Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock has been given permission to interview with other NHL team’s with coaching vacancies. At least four other teams besides the Sabres have coaching vacancies and possibly the Edmonton Oilers might make it six if they decide not to retain coach Todd Nelson. The Red Wings would consider resigning Babcock and would like a decision on his coaching future by the end of the month.
Yesterday, Babcock flew to Buffalo to interview with team owner Terry Pegula and general manager Terry Murray at the team’s downtown arena. Babcock has ties to Murray when they worked together in Anaheim when Babcock coached the Ducks from 2002-2004.
Babcock would be an outstanding hire for the Sabres who have finished dead last in the league in the NHL standings each of the past two seasons. The Sabres had the second pick in the draft last season and drafted Canadian center Sam Reinart who played nine games with the team this past season and should be ready to play a full NHL season next fall. This year’s lottery also handed the Sabres the second pick in the June 2015 draft where the Sabres are expected to select American center Jack Eichel who played at Boston University and became only the second freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award given annually to college hockey’s top player. While the Sabres are a young team, Reinart and Eichel would be two excellent pieces to rebuild the organization around.
The Sabres youth movement and number of accumulated draft picks might be too enticing for Babcock to pass up. While he and his family enjoy living in Detroit, it is well-known the aging roster of the Red Wings is of great concern to Babcock. The Red Wings were bounced in the first round of this year’s playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
An experienced coach who has won the Stanley Cup is coveted by Pegula and Murray. Babcock coached the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title in 2008. Since the 2005-2006 season, he has registered 458 regular-season wins in Detroit ranking him first amongst NHL coaches over that time.
I am sure Babcock will receive plenty of high financial offers from teams that would send a third round pick to the Red Wings within the next three years as compensation for his coaching services.
Money should be no object for Pegula who also owns the Buffalo Bills. Pegula outbid many others when buying the Bills and made a splashy hire by securing Rex Ryan to take over for departed head coach Doug Marrone. If money is what Babcock desires most at this stage of his career, I put my money on the Sabres introducing Babcock as their head coach within the next few weeks. He is a proven commodity that will command instant credibility with players and fans.
And that’s as I see it!
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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Scott D. Mikulski