Mike Babcock Lands In Toronto



What a wild turn of events.

I’m not sure I can remember a day quite like today nor do I think it will be replicated anytime soon.

Let’s all be grown ups and admit that at this point last night, the “dream” of Mike Babcock coaching the Maple Leafs was DEAD.

“Report: Babcock ‘definitely not coming to Toronto’; likely staying in Detroit”

Was the headline on The Score. The story there had this to report:

“The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have fallen behind in yet another race.

Mike Babcock will not spurn the Detroit Red Wings to become coach of the Maple Leafs, TSN’s Bob McKenzie said definitively in a radio appearance Tuesday morning with Montreal 690.

“He’s definitely not coming to Toronto.”

The story was done.

It was universally reported that the race was down to Detroit and Buffalo. It was certain that Babcock wasn’t coming to Toronto.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think, irrespective of what Babcock says in his press conference, that the news was wrong. I think enough connected folks were all saying what they were told, that Toronto was out.

However, there were certain talking heads who took the Monday morning quarterback approach to the news that Toronto was out. I heard too many “experts” claiming that there was “no surprise that the Leafs were out, because he was never going to come to Toronto”. Or ” I told you he was never coming to Toronto”.

It’s one thing for Friedman McKenzie, Kypreos or Dreger to announce that they’ve learned that Toronto is out. It’s totally different to proclaim that “you knew he wasn’t coming”.

So what happened?

Well, after being on, at least TSN 1050am Toronto this morning, where he talked about where the Leafs go post Babcock, Dreger tweeted:

“Toronto and Buffalo in bidding war for Babcock. No decision yet. Hearing Red Wings final offer was 5 years at $4 million per.”

That was at 11:06am EST.

It was the first time, that I am aware of, that anyone stated Toronto might be “back in it”.

The real bomb dropped when McKenzie tweeted:

“Sources in BUF say they are OUT on Mike Babcock. Not going to BUF.”

That was at 12:43pm EST.

At that point Twitter took on a whole new life….

Two minutes later Aaron Ward tweeted:

Source say Mike Babcock has decided to leave the Detroit Red Wings. #TSN

That was at 12:45pm EST

Dreger followed that with:

“Source says Babcock told Blues 2 days ago he was out. Things change? If not, the Leafs may have won the sweepstakes”

That was at 1:06pm EST

Pierre LeBrun tweeted:

“It’s not San Jose, Sharks for sure are OUT on Babcock. Sharks focused on long list of other candidates right now”

That was at 1:22pm EST

Then, in the greatest indication of the power of digital media, Jeffler tweeted the following:

MLSE’s private jet is scheduled to head to Detroit later today and depart within three minutes of arrival. http://flightaware.com/photos/view/334911-9a6d812c5b8800b9c0c814927ca8c17bbb374469/aircrafttype/GLF4 …

When the likes of McKenzie, Arthur, Friedman commented or re-twetted that the frenzy was in full force.

At least on twitter, Friedman and Dreger were tied, both at 1:59pm tweeting that they believed Babcock was indeed a Maple Leaf.

What a wild couple of hours.

So, as we like to do when there is news, here’s what’s been written so far:

First from Toronto:

Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun doesn’t want the parade route planned yet: “There’s an old saying in horse racing: You can have the best trainer in the world, but without the horses, you’ve got nothing. Which is basically the situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

Steve Simmons finds the positive at least for the moment: “And for at least one day, one moment, everything seemed right with the rather uneven, historically dysfunctional Maple Leafs. Never mind the reality of their roster, or the fact the Leafs don’t have a general manager or a front-line centre. They have a coach. Richest one in the business. And darn, if that doesn’t taste like ice cream on a hot summer’s night.”

Bruce Arthur has a lengthy take on the new coach: There will be strains and tension, because Babcock is a furious competitor, and cannot love the idea of rebuilding; he’s 52 and wants to win more Stanley Cups. When asked if going to Toronto fit Babcock’s stated criteria for winning, Holland said, “That’s a question for Mike.”

Rosie lives up to her reputation with her take: “Social media — which I detest and which reflects nothing of import — was divided on Wednesday between over-the-moon and big deal, doesn’t change the dreadful on-ice equation one iota. Perhaps we’ve just forgotten how to feel good about anything. Nothing grand ever happens here. The sports gods don’t like us, grumble-grumble-grumble.
Be not so cynical. Mike Babcock is a game-changer. Losing will not rest easily on his shoulders. And though unquestionably there will be much losing to come, he will not allow it to rest easily on the shoulders of his players either.”

Scott Stinson thinks this is a sign that Shanahan isn’t going to be all that patient :”This deal makes no sense unless Babcock and Shanahan look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster and see either the elements for contention already in place, or the potential to turn those assets into a competitive team in the next couple of years. Ted Nolan just spent two seasons trying to coach a Buffalo Sabres team that was getting its head caved in every night amid a patient rebuild. Are we really to believe that Babcock has signed up for the Toronto version of that?”

Erik Koreen thinks it’s all about the money : “At the end of the day, the Leafs’ hammer had to be the money. Detroit’s final offer was reportedly capped at US$20-million over five years. Buffalo reportedly offered more than that, with a seemingly smoother path toward contention. The Leafs won the day with cash. (The Leafs also extended former coach Randy Carlyle’s contract by two years after last season, instead of firing him and looking for a long-term coach then. Carlyle’s extra year actually adds to the price the Leafs will be paying.)

David Shoalts was at the Argo’s presser while this was all happening : “So some rude newspaper guy – okay, it was me – got up and asked Leiweke and Tanenbaum to comment on the Babcock hiring. Leiweke tossed the Babcock ball to Tanenbaum, who confirmed the news and tried to swing everyone back to the Argos. But at that point the Argos were headed from Page 1 to the inside of the sports section. ( Leiweke, by the way, is staying on as MLSE CEO, past his original June 30 departure, because BCE, Rogers and Tanenbaum can’t agree on a successor.)

As an aside, via Shoalts did you see the Argo reaction to the news????

“The interruption of the football news conference did not go over well with some football fans, who castigated your agent on social media.

One of the Argos, defensive lineman Ricky Foley, jumped in on Twitter. He called letting the Babcock news out during the Argo press conference a “[stupid] move” and fired a shot at the Raptors. Then he dropped these two zingers on his sort-of corporate cousins, the Leafs:

“And our Captains and vet leaders don’t play like a bunch of soft ass punks with no emotion or passion for the game or its fans … #NHL”

“So congrats on Ur new coach @MapleLeafs … Hopefully 50mil & sky high ticket prices r enough 2give Ur players heart & a compete level #CFL””

Compare Cathal Kelly on patience: “But Mr. Babcock deciding on the Leafs – and the Leafs agreeing to wildly overpay him – has very little to do with coaching hockey. This isn’t a sports play. It’s a holy mission. Mike Babcock returned to Canada to save a blighted cultural institution. If it turns out right, the Hall of Fame is the least of it. He’ll be on the $5 bill.

In return for a few coins shaken out of its war chest, Toronto has purchased time and credibility. As they Leafs get set to bottom out for several years to come, nothing is more precious.

Eric Duhatschek channeled his inner Bowman: “But one point Bowman consistently made about the craft of coaching was that no matter what era or trend or style you happened to be talking about, coaches ultimately still had to rely on the players the organization’s feeder system put at their disposal. Or to put it another way, it won’t matter if you are the second coming of Jack Adams, Toe Blake or Punch Imlach, a coach’s influence can only go so far. Without the players to support his theories or teachings, no amount of technical expertise or motivational skills can overcome a lack of hockey-playing talent.

James Mirtle has a really good take on the future: “In the end, the reality was Mike Babcock was never going back to Detroit. For all the prolonged agony that was this season, with the questions and the headlines appearing weekly, that much was made very clear on Wednesday. It wasn’t just the money, either. Certainly, money mattered, and so did the term, with the Toronto Maple Leafs blowing the Red Wings’ offer away to the tune of three years and $30-million (U.S.) above what general manager Ken Holland would put on the table. No one was turning that down.

Grapes got in the thick of things on Rogers hockey tonight

Chris Johnston doesn’t believe it: “Babcock is the 30th head coach in the long, complicated history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unbelievable.

Scott Morrison wants to help Babcock write his speech: “Stick with the plan and leave that Stanley Cup parade route safely locked in the drawer. That should be the mantra of the Toronto Maple Leafs on the heels of their signing of Mike Babcock to a mega-rich contract to become their new head coach.

Jonas Siegel thinks it’s a big deal: “With the promise of eight years and $50 million, Brendan Shanahan lured the biggest free agent catch in the history of the Maple Leafs franchise and perhaps even Toronto sports.
But Babcock, maybe the most decorated NHL coach in the past decade, is still just one piece of a much bigger puzzle, one that will hinge not on his merits behind the bench, but on Shanahan and his vision, philosophy and success as the leader of the Leafs.


Anshar Khan offers a good play by play of the day: “Babcock texted Holland at 8 a.m. and went to his house, and they talked for 30-40 minutes before Holland went to the office. They had one more “good talk” before Holland told him he had some players coming in for exit interviews, including Henrik Zetterberg.

Helene St. James on social media : “First, Holland reminisced back a week to last Thursday and eating breakfast with Babcock during the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. That was when Babcock told Holland that Darren Dreger of TSN, a Canadian sports network, wanted to come over and interview them. “I’m thinking, you’re flying over from Toronto and we’re in Prague — boy,” Holland said. “We sat for a seven-or-eight minute interview. You certainly understand the scope of how big it is. But I don’t go on social media for a reason. I want to stay focused on what I’ve got to do.

Sean Gentile thinks there may be a plan: “There were signs. The David Clarkson buyout, namely. Wednesday, though, brought 50 million more of them: The Toronto Maple Leafs, under Brendan Shanahan, have figured out what to do with all that money. Toronto — specifically, ownership group Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment — swooped into the closing seconds of the Mike Babcock sweepstakes and took home the prize. Babcock, a Stanley Cup winner and perennial contender in his 10 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, is going to coach the Leafs. And he didn’t come cheap.

Adam Proteau doesn’t get the negativity: “So, let me get this straight: Mike Babcock, one of the most respected, productive hockey coaches alive today and the most sought-after free agent this summer – player or otherwise – signs with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and this is a negative? The Maple Leafs use some of the millions they’ve saved under the NHL’s salary cap system and establish instant credibility in a dressing room that needed a full fumigation after the the toxic 2014-15 campaign, and team president Brendan Shanahan somehow screwed this hire up? Sorry, not buying it.

Michael Rosenberg has a good read on what the after effect will be: “The Babcock era in Toronto will be fascinating. More interesting at the moment, though, is how he handled this whole situation. He may have created a new model for how coaches in all sports view their careers.

John Vogl with the Buffalo angle :”The Sabres never entered a bidding war with the Leafs, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said. They were confident of their offer and waited for Babcock’s answer. They got it at 11:35 a.m., according to ESPN. It was not the answer they expected, leading to speculation that Babcock merely turned Buffalo’s offer into a more preferred one with Toronto. The Sabres had no comment.

Jerry Sullivan breaks it down for Sabres fans: “This was a crushing blow for Pegula and Co. I’m not going to be phony about it. I was prepared with a column that said Babcock would be huge get for the Sabres and the city, further evidence that Pegula was making Western New York a destination for free agents. Coming on the heels of the Rex Ryan hire, landing Babcock would have given Pegula the top two coaching free agents in the NFL and NHL. You could have argued that little Buffalo possessed the most dynamic head coaching tandem of any American professional sports city.

Greg Wyshynski offered this up :” Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was the first to confirm that Babcock has agreed to an 8-year contract, that might have an out clause after five years. He reports it’s a front-loaded deal – the CBA doesn’t govern those for coaches – with a ton of money up front. He said there was talk about Babcock having a role in player personnel, potentially working with MSLE president Brendan Shanahan in that role. Darren Dreger nailed down the money: Around $50 million for Babcock over the life of the deal, which means an annual salary of over $6.25 million. Bob McKenzie reports the front-loaded deal will net Babcock $8 million per season in the first three years. That means he’ll make more money next season than every player on the Toronto roster save for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf.

Back to Toronto as the Michael Grange story was buried on their website: “The Leafs had their saviour, we learned about it at an Argos press conference, and at eight years and $50 million, he was richer and more tenured than the last guy they hired to walk on water … Burke something.

And so let the clock begin to tick in the city where best intentions come to die long, painful deaths.

Thats all for now!

More tomorrow.


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