So long before the NHL regular season ended – back when Peter Horachek was still behind the bench, everyone in Toronto was focused on bringing Mike Babcock to town and convinced that the Detroit Red Wings bench boss was going to leave that 10-year marriage to pick up the pieces of a shattered club in “The Big Smoke – we cautioned fans to hedge their bets and see the bigger picture.
There were no guarantees that Babcock was (a) going to leave Detroit and (b) that he would choose Toronto if he did opt to switch teams, but regardless of the coaching situation, the framework for rebuilding this team the right way was being established.
Now May is coming to a close, job vacancies are starting to get filled and people in Toronto are starting to get a little squirrely because the Maple Leafs don’t have a coach as of yet and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get the man they’ve coveted all season long.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie discussed Babcock’s future Tuesday morning with TSN Radio 690 in Montreal, suggesting that a return to Detroit is the most likely option at this point for the only coach to be a member of the Triple Gold Club. More important to fans in Toronto, McKenzie said definitively that Babcock won’t be leading the Leafs next season, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone given that the Red Wings are in a much better position to succeed in the next three years than any of the bottom-dwellers looking to lure him away.
With Option A almost assuredly off the board, the Leafs have to look elsewhere, but some of the remaining options have vanished as well.
Fresh off leading Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Championships, Todd McLellan is poised to take over as the head coach in Edmonton, taking him out of consideration, and University of North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol has been announced as the next coach of the Philadelphia Flyers after leading UND to six NCAA Frozen Fours in 11 years.
St. Louis asked for permission to speak with Babcock, which was weird given that Ken Hitchcock is still officially their head coach, so maybe he’ll be on the market in the next couple weeks, regardless of what happens with his close friend and frequent international collaborator.
He would certainly be a great fit for a young Toronto squad, given his sound defensive track record and history of developing goaltenders, but he needs to be relieved of his duties with the Blues first before that can even be considered.
The problem for Toronto right now is that Babcock was such a high profile, highly coveted target and missing out on both he and McLellan leaves them facing a situation where they’re bringing in a secondary or tertiary option next season and fans aren’t going to be happy with that.
The guys from Leafs Lunch on TSN Radio talked about the current coaching situation on Tuesday, suggesting that if the Leafs fail to bring in a “big fish,” club president Brendan Shanahan will be forced to do a serious sell job on whomever he brings in.
Outside of Edmonton moving forward with McLellan, a lot of these dominoes will start to fall once Babcock makes his decision, which is expected on Wednesday. Once he announces where he’s headed, everyone else looking for a coach – or thinking about replacing their coach – will start to move.
Hopefully for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the fans will be happy with whomever they end up with, but chances are they won’t be since Mike Babcock doesn’t appear like he’s coming to town.