Stay away Steve Yzerman….stay far away!
The Toronto Maple Leafs sent waves throughout the hockey world today with the announcement that they’ve fired head coach Mike Babcock, who had been signed to the richest coaching deal in NHL history in 2015.
Of course, Red Wings fans know him well. After all, he was their bench boss from 2005 through 2015, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and coming within a game of repeating the following year. And of course, his coaching record is nothing to sneeze at as as member of the Triple Gold Club; an Olympic Games gold medal, the Stanley Cup and a World Championship gold medal.
But there were also reportedly rifts between him and star players in Detroit such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and that trend continued to Toronto with Auston Matthews. Fans also grew weary of his insistence of using grinding forwards in late game situations rather than established stars.
Nobody in Detroit will forget the Dan Cleary saga, for which former GM Ken Holland received the most grief for. Babcock was a major factor in how long he stayed a Red Wing, however.
After leading the Maple Leafs to three consecutive postseason appearances (all first round losses), the team has underachieved this year, starting 9-10-4 and having dropped their past six straight.
Tuesday night’s loss against the Vegas Golden Knights was the last straw for team president (and former Red Wing) Brendan Shanahan, who announced the firing this afternoon and the ascension of Sheldon Keefe to the position of 31st head coach in Leafs history.
Jeff Blashill may or may not be the long-term coaching solution in Detroit, but fans shouldn’t be opining for that glorious head of hair that served as head coach for 10 years to be back. That era is over.