Sunday, May 24, 2015
Authors Posts by Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited unofficial team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast). Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, a weekly feature piece, the "Leafs Notebook", along with a Web TV show the "Maple Leaf Hangout".

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Andrew Brewer
Sochi: Andrew Brewer (left) stands with Ken Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff, Mike Babcock and Claude Julian displaying their gold medals.

Word on the street has Andrew Brewer joining Jim Hiller as new assistant coaches to Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike Babcock.

Brewer, 29, joined the Red Wings after spending three years with Hockey Canada, serving as the organization’s video coach for various international events, most recently working with Mike Babcock for Canada’s gold-medal team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Since joining Team Canada in 2011, Brewer has served on Canada’s coaching staff for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 IIHF World Championships and World Junior Championships, along with other Hockey Canada events including the Canada-Russia Challenge, CHL Subway Series, Deutschland Cup and World Sledge Hockey Challenge. Before his time with Hockey Canada, Brewer spent three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick, helping the club win the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s University Cup as national champions in 2009 and 2011.

Brewer’s experience in working with elite NHL coaches extended beyond the national team. Leading up to the Olympics, he travelled with Babcock and the Red Wings for a week to get an idea of Babcock’s coaching style so he’d be comfortable working with a new coach during the Olympics.

Andrew Brewer was named assistant coach of the Detroit Red Wings on July 30, 2014, joining Tony Granato and Jim Hiller as coach Mike Babcock’s support staff.

Give him a follow on twitter:

https://twitter.com/brewnation


Andrew Brewer - Coaching History

SEASONTEAMLEAGUEROLE ON TEAM
2008-2009Univ. of New BrunswickCISVideo Coach
2009-2010Univ. of New BrunswickCISVideo Coach
2010-2011Univ. of New BrunswickCISVideo Coach
2011-2012Team CanadaInternationalVideo Coach
Canada U20WJC-20Video Coach
CanadaWCVideo Coach
2012-2013Canada U20WJC-20Video Coach
CanadaWCVideo Coach
2013-2014Canada U20WJC-20Video Coach
CanadaOGVideo Coach
CanadaWCVideo Coach
2014-2015Detroit Red WingsNHLAssistant Coach

Frederik Gauthier’s Rimouski Oceanic is set to face off against the Oshawa Generals in Gauthier’s first game of the Memorial Cup. The game is live on Sportsnet at 4:30 p.m. EST.

Gauthier has 16 points in 20 playoff games, slowing down after a very productive start to his playoffs offensively, but he chipped in an assist on Rimouski’s winning goal in the decisive QMJHL Final game, and continues to play in a shutdown role in the toughest matchups and take all the key defensive zone faceoffs. In Michael Dal Colle, Cole Cassells and company, The Goat has got a tough task ahead of him this afternoon.


Stephane Robidas joins NHL Live to discuss his team’s hiring of Mike Babcock to be the new Head Coach.


Saturday Reading:

  • Damien Cox: Babcock must make Kessel a Leafs asset again (Toronto Star)
    The combination of reduced production, a reputation for being in average physical condition at best and the stigma of being labelled a “coach killer” has probably reduced Kessel’s trade value to an all-time low.
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  • Damien Cox: Do Maple Leafs have a brighter future than Sabres? (Sportsnet)
    Shanahan, in other words, has pieces. Some good pieces, and he’s added the coach he wanted. The Leafs will pick fourth in next month’s very deep draft, two slots after Buffalo, and will likely choose between Boston College blueliner Noah Hanifin, Erie centre Dylan Strome and London centre Mitch Marner.
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  • Ray Ferraro: Babcock will demand better effort from Leafs (TSN 1050)
    TSN Hockey Analyst Ray Ferraro joins Leafs Lunch to talk about the high expectations Mike Babcock will demand from Leaf players, and why he would be very surprised if the team’s core returned next season.

  • Macko and Cauz: Bill Peters on atmosphere Babcock will create (TSN 1050)
    Carolina Hurricanes head coach and former assistant coach under Mike Babcock, Bill Peters joins Macko and Cauz to give some insight on Toronto’s new head coach. They talk about his love of hunting, what Babcock will bring to the Maple Leafs, and the emphasis he puts on being a professional.
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  • Ed Willes: $50-million man Mike Babcock needs to be a miracle worker for dysfunctional Leafs (The Province)
    The Leafs, of course, have become the newest test case for one of hockey’s enduring questions: Does a coach really make that much of a difference? In signing Mike Babcock to a groundbreaking eight-year, $50-million deal, they certainly made coaches all over the NHL happy. But is Babcock the man who can end half a century of misery in The Big Smoke? Can he, through his mere presence, alter the course of this cursed franchise?
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  • Alec Brownscombe: Report: Jim Hiller to join Mike Babcock on Leafs new coaching staff (MLHS)
    According to Ansar Khan of Michigan Live, assistant coach Jim Hiller will join Mike Babcock on the Maple Leafs coaching staff next season.
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  • Alec Brownscombe: What’s next for the Leafs front office? (MLHS)
    The Leafs have pulled a lot of brain trust out of the OHL pool, and if they’re looking for hockey minds elsewhere in the CHL, there isn’t anyone in the WHL who has been at it longer or been more consistently successful at all levels of the game, from coaching, to management, to ownership (he even played for the Wheat Kings in the ’70s, too). Given the main thrust of the rebuilding plan is to outdraft 29 other teams, he’s another good asset to have if there is any interest in McCrimmon’s part in leaving the GM and coaching role with a team in which he’s so deeply embedded.
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  • Rob Vanstone: Leafs deal was a steal (Leader Post)
    Babcock began earning his money before even lifting a whistle in the Leafs’ employ. He managed the situation ingeniously, as he typically does. Honestly, who else could have pulled that off? The Leafs could have spent less money on another coach who has a Stanley Cup pedigree — see: Dan Bylsma — but would there have been a similar buy-in? That is doubtful.
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According to Ansar Khan of Michigan Live, assistant coach Jim Hiller will join Mike Babcock on the Maple Leafs coaching staff next season.

Some management groups, upon hiring a new head coach, allow the new HC to bring along an assistant of his choosing and hire the rest by committee, but it’s not yet clear what the agreement or hiring strategy will be for Mike Babcock as he goes about building his staff. It does sound like Babcock will be bringing along Hiller, who, based on his role with the Red Wings last season, would run the powerplay and do some analytics work.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, left, and new head coach Mike Babcock arrive at a press conference in Toronto on Thursday, May 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Was there a hockey game last night?

You’ve got to love how disruptive the Maple Leafs can be.

There was TSN posting a lengthy clip of Mike Babcock’s plane touching down early in the morning. There was members of the media throwing professional decorum by the wayside and applauding some of Babcock’s meatier proclamations (According to Cathal Kelly, someone even let out an overjoyed sob among the gargantuan media corps in attendance). A pair of Sabres writers traveled down the QEW to grill Babcock on lying to their team, as if it was in some way shocking an eminently employable person with plenty of other options chose not to live in Buffalo.

This guy’s won a pair of Olympic gold medals. He’s provided two of our most binding cultural moments of the past decade. And he thinks the Leafs are bigger than that – so meaningful to Canada, they’re more important than the national team. You don’t have to buy it. But, given his stature, you do have to respect the source. (Also – stick it, Montreal.)
Breaking protocol, people began to clap. Someone in the media section actually sobbed and said, “Wow.”
- Cathal Kelly

Mike Babcock did about 18 hours of media spots, which you can get the full digest of down below.

Friday Links:

  • MLHS: Mike Babcock on analytics, making the Leafs an attractive destination, and much more (Transcript)
    My point is this – if we create an environment – not if – when we create an environment that allows these players to be safe, it’s going to be way better. How many people from Ontario play in the NHL? Once we make it safe, they’re coming home.. They don’t right now. It’s really hard. Mark my words: They’ll be coming.
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  • Declan Kerin: Jim Paliafito added to Toronto Maple Leafs front office (MLHS)
    Mark Hunter (London Knights), Kyle Dubas (Sault Ste. Marie), Lindsay Hofford (London Knights), Wes Clark (Sault Ste. Marie) and now Jim Paliafito (Saginaw)—from the old boys club to the OHL boys club. Paliafito is well known as one of the hardest working GMs in the OHL according to contacts in the O, is close with Mark Hunter, and has a reputation as an excellent talent evaluator.
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  • MLHS: Brendan Shanahan: “One thing I admire about Mike Babcock is his ability to coach an entire roster” (Transcript)
    I heard all the commentary, I heard people take swipes at us and say, “he’s going to laugh us right out the door.” People understood that he had other opportunities with teams who had started their build earlier or were further down the road or where winning might come quicker. I didn’t hide from myself, I embraced it. I actually thought to myself that our only chance at attracting him is, I always felt for the same reasons people thought he wouldn’t be interested, that might be the biggest hook to a challenge-seeking guy like Mike.
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  • MLHS: Mike Babcock: “I want to be the best coach of my generation” (Transcript)
    I don’t want to have a playoff team, I want to have a Cup team. If you want a Cup team, you have to have a Cup process. That’s Cup scouting, Cup drafting, that’s Cup development. You don’t get lucky by accident. When preparation meets opportunity you get lucky. When you do the work, things happen.
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  • MLHS: Mike Babcock Introductory Press Conference (Transcript)
    When I talked to Larry, George and Guy about the process here, one of my questions to them was real clear: Are you willing to stick to it, are we in it together? When it’s hard, when it’s really hard, are you going to be in it? Are you for sure? Once I got that commitment, it was different.
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  • MLHS: Mike Babcock on Hockey Central with George Stroumboulopoulos (Video)
    Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock sits down with George Stroumboulopoulos to talk about his decision to come to Toronto, his style of coaching, his relationship with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and so much more.
    More video: Babcock on OTR | Babcock Post-Conference Media Scrum
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  • Elliotte Friedman: Phaneuf says he’s ‘in’ with Babcock in charge (Sportsnet)
    “Yeah, I’m in,” the Toronto Maple Leafs captain said by telephone. “I signed here for seven years for a reason. To be part of it. I’m fully prepared to go through the process.”
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  • Michael Grange: It’s ride or die for the Maple Leafs, Babcock, Shanahan (Sportsnet)
    Win a Stanley Cup here and everyone gets out alive. Fail and they are laughingstocks, exposed as hubristic schemers who believed their will, energy and money could be the difference in a sport that so often turns on a rolling puck, a rut in the ice or finding Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterburg in the sixth and seventh rounds of consecutive drafts. It’s terrifying, really, which is why they’re here.
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  • Sean McIndoe: Toronto wins the great Mike Babcock sweepstakes (Grantland)
    Maybe the biggest winner here is Shanahan. He called his shot on this one, not so much with his words but with his actions over the past year. Talking a big game is nothing new in Toronto, but actually delivering sure is. Shanahan has already faced criticism of his approach to hiring — the team currently has no GM and just parted ways with its AHL coach. With the Leafs seeming to fall out of the Babcock picturein recent days, the narrative of a disorganized organization being led by a rookie, overmatched executive was getting ready to grind into full gear.
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  • David Shoalts: ‘We’re close': MLSE nearly ready to name new CEO to replace Tim Leiweke, chairman says (The Globe and Mail)
    Larry Tanenbaum said Thursday that the Toronto-based sports organization’s lengthy search for a CEO, which has dragged on since August, is nearing an end, hinting an announcement could come within the next month.
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  • James Mirtle: How much can Mike Babcock really help the Leafs? (The Globe and Mail)
    In that sense, this isn’t a typical hire. Babcock will essentially be part development coach, part assistant GM and part bench boss in Toronto, one of a chorus of voices in a group that Shanahan referred to as “people way smarter and way better at this than me.”
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  • Jonas Siegel: Babcock sold by Shanahan’s pledge of patience (TSN.ca)
    Their seemingly firm commitment to that proposition, that of a sound, steady and slow rebuild – along with the priciest contract ever for an NHL head coach – is what sold Babcock on becoming the 30th man to coach the Maple Leafs.
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  • Stephen Whyno: How Mike Babcock decided on the Maple Leafs (Sportsnet)
    On May 8, Babcock got permission to talk to other teams. Leafs president Brendan Shanahan spoke with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and filled out the necessary paperwork to interview Babcock and within 10 minutes was on the phone with him.
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  • Clrkaitken: Rebuilding the Maple Leafs: Part 1 (Pension Plan Puppets)
    It’s no secret that as an organization, the Maple Leafs need help in virtually every area. Some people may try to quibble that Player X or Prospect Y are a real great piece, but the overall point can’t really be argued; the Leafs organization is thin in a lot of areas, and needs to bolster its talent pool at nearly all levels of the organization.
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18/08/2010- Brendan Shanahan NHL Executive at the Mastercard Centre.The NHL will use 30 top prospects in the 2011 draft to scrimmage and test out some ideas for changing hockey rules such as how many players on the ice for overtime.(Vince Talotta/Toronto Star)

Brendan Shanahan joined Hockey Central at Noon to discuss the hiring of Mike Babcock.

Mike Babcock @ TSN
Mike Babcock @ TSN with Bryan Hayes and Dave Naylor

Mike Babcock on The Bryan Hayes Show with Hayes and Dave Naylor.

On the surprise choice in Toronto:
Yeah, I didn’t see it coming either to be honest with you. I knew that they were looking for a coach. I knew I was going to go through a process. Kenny Holland and the Illitch family afforded me that opportunity. I came to visit the Leafs, I had to check back, I don’t know what day it was – the 9th or 10th – when I got back I told my family I was real impressed. I met with Hunts and Shanny and Larry, and I was real impressed with them. I still never would’ve thought at that time that this would’ve happened, but Shanny was relentless. I met with lots of teams and lots of intelligent people with great plans, but in the end this really worked well for my family and I wanted to be the Leafs coach. You coach in Detroit for 10 years, an original six franchise, an incredible operation, their on ice product is unbelievable, but I thought I needed a new opportunity, a new challenge to invigorate myself. This one in the end won out.

Why the faith in Leafs management:
I think when you go to work some place you take a leap of faith. When I came to the NHL, you go to Anaheim, they had missed the playoffs by about 25 points. Bryan Murray gives me a chance. I know Bryan, was involved in camps with him, had a few beers together, but you take a leap of faith. You move your family out there and you say, “this is the opportunity that is going to springboard me into an NHL career.” But you don’t know, you’re just in survival mode at that point. When Kenny Holland gave me the opportunity to go to Detroit after the lockout, we had gone from 72 million dollars where there was no cap in those days, to 36. You take a leap of faith, but you’re basing it on the people. This is the same thing. They’re committing to me and I’m committing to them. I was impressed with the plan, I was impressed with Shanny, I was impressed with Hunts. They’re good people who want to do well and they’re workers. When you meet Larry, you see a guy at 70 years old who is fired up about his next thing. He’s not looking to retire, he’s looking for the next thing. When I talked to the board, I went through how long it is going to be and how hard it is going to be. I asked them if they were going to have my back, if you’re going to have my back in three years when your family is being ridiculed and things aren’t going good, are we in it for the haul? When they said they were, that was good enough for me.

I have a burning desire to win. Maybe to a fault, used to get in trouble in grade school for it, had it my whole life. I love to win. Bottom line, I love to win. But this opportunity is in the end going to be about winning but it’s going to be a process. I live in the present type of guy, on game day I’m going to be about winning. All you can do is maximize the group that you got, and that’s what you’re going to try to do. But I’m not getting in the way of the big picture. I don’t want to have a playoff team, I want to have a Cup team. If you want a Cup team, you have to have a Cup process. That’s Cup scouting, Cup drafting, that’s Cup development. You don’t get lucky by accident. When preparation meets opportunity you get lucky. When you do the work, things happen. When you got the players, you give them a chance to succeed. When you don’t, there’s no chance. This isn’t a quick fix, this is a long thing, but what I believe is that we do it to ourselves, when you’re in management and get in a hurry. The fans are going to be patient, they’re not dumb, they’re smart, they see what’s going on. Let’s build a program here that we can all be proud of, that should be here in this great city with all these great fans for the Maple Leaf. That’s how it should be. Let’s do it.

Reasonable timeline and changing the reputation:
There is no timeline for me. We started already, so we’re going to keep going. We’re going to work everyday and there’s going to be some huge setbacks. We’re going to dig in; the sun is going to get up and so are we. We are going to end up with really good people and we’re going to end up with really good players. We have a really good plan, we still have to build the team off ice, then we’ll build the team on ice. We have lots of work to do, but I think that’s what it’s all about. Life’s about the journey, it’s about building it. When you build it, the people see it’s happening, and they’ll be patient if we do it right. If we’re going back and forth and wavering all over the place, they’re going to be frustrated and I don’t blame them. Are some nights you’re going to come see the Leafs play and go, “not good enough?” Sure. I’ve coached 10 years, the last 10 years in Detroit we averaged 106.4 points. That’s a tonne of points. In that time, did I ever walk out of the rink embarrassed? Yeah, because I didn’t get my job done. But I didn’t walk out very many times. Does that mean you win? No, I walked out lots of times after a loss with my head held high. It’s a process. That’s what we’re going to do here. How much time is it going to take? Great question, and when you find someone with the answer, let me know.

When will you know you’ve ‘done it’?
You’ve never done it. It’s about the next thing. What’s interesting to me is, 2010 I was fortunate enough to coach Canada’s Olympic team and we won. And then I’m sitting around with my dad a while later and they’re talking about the next one and he says, “you’re not doing that.” I said, “yeah, if they don’t ask me I’m not doing it.” And then 2014 came and he said, “Well why would you do it?” You do it because there’s the challenge, that’s why you do it. It’s not about what happened yesterday, it’s about what are we going to do today and what are we going to do tomorrow to get better. So to me me it’s about the constant progression of trying to get better. I don’t know what the timeline is, I know I signed here eight years and I plan on staying here ten.

Was coaching the Leafs a dream?
Not as much like that. What I would say to you, I told a buddy a while back that I want to live in a condo downtown with my wife when my kids are gone. I’d like to do that in one of these great cities. When you’ve coached Detroit for ten years and it’s an original six franchise and you’re thinking to yourself you might leave, you’re leaving the Detroit Red Wings. You’re making that decision to leave Ken Holland and Mike Illitch. These people looked after me for 10 years. You better make that decision to go some place that you perceive is a big deal. I perceived this opportunity as a huge challenge with great excitement. It invigorates you. I was like a 25 year old kid, nervous, fearful today. I love that. That means you’re not dying, you’re living. Is the challenge great? Sure. Is the city great? Yeah. Is the Maple Leaf logo fantastic? Yes. It’s the Maple Leafs, I’m the head coach of the Maple Leafs. It’s special.

On putting his legacy in the balance:
I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. I never thought about it in the past. I like winning. I want to be the greatest coach in my generation. You can never, ever measure up to Scotty Bowman, it’s a different time, a different era, it’s impossible. What you could’ve done, is when I talked to myself all these teams, you could line yourself out and go to a place that’s for sure set up. That in some ways, common sense wise from the outside looking in, might be the way to go. This is the city of Toronto, the fanbase here is incredible, I think second to none, it’s the Leafs, I am proud and I’m excited about the decision I’ve made and I’m excited for my family, my wife to get a chance to live in this great city. I’m not trying to get anybody all fired up about next week. I’m fired up about today and tomorrow. But the process for the fan is going to take longer. I love to grind, I tell people I am a professional grinder. I am absolutely relentless. I love it. I don’t work, because that would be wrong. My wife says, when people say, ‘oh you’re husband works all the time, she says ‘no he’s just out there screwing around.’ She’s not wrong. I love this and I love the challenge and I love the opportunity. When you face things like that and you’re exhilarated with your opportunity and you’re committed to it, you have a chance.

On the recent history of failure:
I thought Pat Quinn had success here. I thought he had success, Pat was as large as life for me and they had a good thing going on when Pat was here. That was before the scrutiny that the players are under here today. So why would anybody be crazy enough to come here? You know, I ask myself that a lot, but the reason I want to come here is because I believe we can get her done. You know, is there any guarantees? No. But I’m a big believer if you do good things, good things happen. I believe if you think you can, you can. There’s nothing wrong with having doubters, that’s great, that makes it more exciting actually. We’re going to go through the process, we’re going to make change. That change is going to led to more and more success and we’re going to build more and more momentum in this city and it’s going to be safe for the players then and then players are going to come.

On what’s meant by “making it safe for the players:”
Just think about how hard it is to be a player on the Leafs right now. They asked me about Dion today; let’s make it safe for him, let’s help the guy out for crying out loud. Let’s help him be the kind of player and leader he wants to be. Let’s step up, let’s own it ourselves. We’re responsible, we put the product on the ice, let’s fix the product, let’s help the guys. When you do that, you know how many guys in Ontario who are playing somewhere else that are pretty good hockey players that wouldn’t mind coming here? It’s the Maple Leafs, let’s make it safe for the players, but it’s going to take us time. This isn’t happening tomorrow, this isn’t happening next week, it’s going to take some time. The board committed to me and I committed to the board and this city. That doesn’t mean you can’t question us, you’re going to get that; you guys get paid to do that, but the great thing about it is, when I start listening to you guys I’ll be working with you. In the meantime we’re going to be doing it the right way. There will be some country channel here; I’ll find a country channel like I did in Detroit where they didn’t talk about the Red Wings and I’ll be dialled in.

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Mike Babcock has been officially introduced as the 30th coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Full transcript of his introductory press conference below.

Mike Babcock’s opening remarks:
I too would like to thank Ken Holland, the Detroit Red Wings, the Illitch family for ten unbelievable years and opportunity for my family to grow up in one city. Very, very special times. I’d like to thank the board, Larry, Brendan, for this opportunity. I’m thrilled today to be here. I have to tell you, I felt like I was 25 years old, scared to death to be here. I’m excited for the opportunity and looking forward to the challenge. This is a great, great city, unbelievable fans. It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. I am proud to be here today. I look forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun, the journey. It’s going to be a long one, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.

On choosing the Leafs:
I think the first thing was we went through a long process. I’m very respectful for Mr. I and Kenny for giving me that opportunity. It was also trying to figure out what was the best thing for Mike Babcock and his family for the next 10 years. We just had an unbelievable run for 10 years and enjoyed ourselves. I always think, “what’s the message to your kids?” I said to my wife, we’ve been chasing our whole life trying to be the best we can possibly be. Maybe it’s time for another opportunity, but the opportunity in Detroit, the relationship I have with Ken Holland and the Illitch family and the players there, is a very, very emotional thing to say the least. This was a hard decision. In the end we went through the process and talked to a lot of teams. I can’t tell you how much I learned, it was unbelievable. In the end, we made this decision to come to Toronto. I had a lot of opportunity to coach Canada’s teams and enjoyed that immensely. Believe it or not, I believe this is Canada’s team and we need to put Canada’s team back on the map.

On spurning and “lying” to the Sabres (questions asked by bitter Sabres reporters):
Well, the first thing is I talked to lots of teams. When you’re talking to teams, negotiation is in that process. The hardest thing for the media to do is to figure out where I was going because I had no idea where I was going. The reason was because it was hard decision. We change our mind – not changed our minds but we went back and forth so many times — trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. If you think Terry Pegula isn’t a star, you’re making a mistake. Or that Mike Babcock and Tim Murray didn’t have a great relationship, that’s wrong, too. In the end, I wanted to coach the Maple Leafs and this was the best fit for my family. You put the two together, that’s what happened.

That lying word is an interesting word for me. I’ve been in the public eye for a long, long time, I don’t think that goes anywhere near who I am or what I’m about. I’ve been real straight forward and honest throughout the process with all the teams I talked to and with my ownership. I worked for 6 years in Spokane, Washington and just worked for 10 years in Detroit. As head coach, you don’t work places for a long time if you don’t have good relationships and treat people right. That would be the end of that for me. Did we work on financial stuff and term? Absolutely.

On making the playoffs versus winning a Cup:
I never came here to make the playoffs. I came here to be involved in a Cup process, and that goes from scouting from drafting from development from analytics, from putting an off ice team together and an on ice team together. I love to win, I have a burning desire to win. But I also want to win in the end. I don’t just want to get in the playoffs. I want to win, I want to be here with these guys, we want to build a team off the ice and on the ice that the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be proud of. We have to create an environment that is safe for players. What I mean by that is, when you win every day it becomes pretty safe for the players. Right now it’s a hard spot. We’re going to change that, but it’s going to take time. As a coach, you’re in the day-to-day winning business, you understand it. I’ve been around a long time. On game day I’ll be shortsighted for sure, but I’ve got a big picture in mind. So does Shanny, so does Larry, the people on our staff. But if you think there’s no pain coming, there’s pain coming.

When I talked to Shanny that’s what I heard: It’s going to be a process. What I like about the board here is they’ve made a commitment, a long-term commitment. In turn I’ve made a long term commitment to the Leafs. The plan is to grow the team.

On the leadership core in Toronto:
I’ve been real fortunate to have great leaders. Great, great people – Stevie and Nik Lidstrom and our group there in Detroit. Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Kronwall have packed me around for 10 years. I am forever indebted to those guys. We’ve got good people here, we’re going to acquire good people and we’re going to make them better. I am a school teacher, that is what I am, real simply. My job is make people around you better. I’m real proud of the fact that over the ten years in Detroit we helped players get better. We’ve got five head coaches now in the NHL, we got Stevie and Jimmy Nill running teams, you develop people. You develop leadership. What we are going to be is men. We are going to be straight up and honest and we’re going to take responsibility for how hard we play. That doesn’t mean we guarantee success every night, but we’re going to be responsible here and we’re going to have good people. You don’t win without good people and we’re going to have good people.

What I always have done over the years, when we are evaluating the other team and what the other coach does. We always say to ourselves, “he knows them better than we do.” There’s lots of people who have come here before, I’m not naïve, really good men and really good coaches and good people, and it hasn’t gone as well as they had hoped. It’s going to be a long process, I’ve said it right from the get go and I won’t back off that. It’s going to take time.

I’m going to get to know these guys, the guys on the team, at training camp. We are going to have good people on this team, we are going to have men, we are going to have people that are accountable.

On Dion Phaneuf:
I’m going to get to know Dion and he’s going to get to know me. I like to think I am a straight forward communicator. When you work for people and they tell you want they want, I’m one of those people, I like to please them. I like to know what they want, I don’t want to read their mind. I want them to tell me and I’ll be straight forward in that way as well.

I think you have to help your leaders. I think that’s what your job is to help them do things right. You just do it right day after day after day. I’m a fan of Dion, I think he’s a good kid and works hard and tries hard. For me to comment on players here, I don’t think that’s fair because I’ve evaluated them from afar and to me that’s not what a coach does.

On justifying the contract:
To me it’s real simple. The contract is simply a commitment from the Maple Leafs, to success. They’ve made a long-term commitment to me, so I understand totally they’re committed to the process. That to me is what it is all about.

His level of input on personnel decisions:
I have nothing in my contract about that. Hunter and Dubas and Shanny and the group, we’re committed to doing this. We understand what the process is and what you’re going to have to do to make it happen. Mark Hunter is a guy I have an absolute tonne of respect for and have for a long long time. He gets players, and the only way you can get players is by having draft picks. We have to get him draft picks.

Shanahan on Babcock’s input in front office decisions:
Whether in my view, whoever our head coach was going to be, I want his input. I don’t think that is a unique situation. Did Mike need it in his contract? No. In all of our conversations, do we want Mike to have his input and his fingerprints, absolutely. I don’t think that’s unique for any NHL team. It’s a collaborative effort, we all have to communicate.

Patience for losing:
I don’t know if I did. Won 19 games in Spokane one year and won the league the next year. That’s a long, long time ago. This is what I do know: I’ve coached a long, long time and I’ve worked for an owner and a GM in Spokane, Washington and they helped me along the way. We found a way to win on a continual basis. Ken Holland, we just went through a 10-year run. You make hard decisions along the way and you do what’s right for the organization. I have a burning desire to win. But I also know what you’re trying to do and where you are trying to go. I understand how long the process is going to be. One of the guys on the board said the other day, “When you acquire these companies it usually takes twice as long and twice as hard as you think.” I believe that.

On the lack of depth in organization:
We understand where we are at, too. I just saw the farm team play, they were playing Grand Rapids not long ago. I did a thorough study of all the teams in the NHL that I met with.

On handling the craziness of the market:
That’s a great question. I don’t think you can know until you live it every single day. What I enjoy about today, it’s obvious people care and you want to be in an environment where people care. This fan base here really cares about the Leafs and wants us to be good. They understand we are going to be in a long process here to get them where they want to go. I embrace this opportunity of coaching the Leafs. I came here with my eyes wide open, I know totally what’s going on. In the end I’ve made the right decision and I’m excited about it.

Shanahan on the GM hunt:
For me, what’s most important is finding the best fit. I feel there are some options out there. I felt at the time that it was more pressing to focus on the coaching situation. We have been involved since the get go with Mike. We have had some conversations with some potential people. My process, my plan hasn’t changed from the end of the season; it’s about finding the right people. I’m not as concerned about the timing; I think we are in great shape with the draft. If we find the right guy, we’ll move on the right guy.

Working with Shanahan, and an unknown GM:
Change is exciting, it’s invigorating, it gets you going. I have to be honest with you; Ken Holland is a great man and a good friend of mine, it was very emotional. I had to get the Kleenex box out when I sat in his office there because of what he’s done for me. When I took the leap of faith to go to Detroit, the salary cap had just come in. You took a leap of faith. I knew Ken, I know Shanny. I was a believer in Ken, I’m a believer in Shanny. Now we have to build a relationship over time. In hockey there is huge, huge emotional successes and huge defeats that are just tough. But through that time you stay the course and you keep doing good things and good things happen. I believe good things happen to good people, so you surround yourself with that.

Shanahan on his “honest” courting process:
When Mike and I first met, it was the very first conversation we had after we got permission from Detroit. It was difficult to me because it wasn’t a sales pitch in a way. It was very truthful conversation. Mike asked hard questions and I didn’t lie. I told him the truth. I got off the phone and wondered if I just made a huge mistake. From the beginning I outlined my vision; very early in the process we outlined what we were prepared to do financially. Very early in the process. We met again in Prague, and I reiterated again, nothing changed. I just kept hitting Mike with what our vision is here, what anyone here needs to expect and should expect. Mike’s questions for me were really not pushing back against the build and the vision, it was about what we were talking about here for the year; it was, do we have the ability as a city and as an organization to stick to it through tough times. Mike coming here was really wanting to make sure we aren’t speeding up the process, that we are sticking to the process. There was no last minute swooping in with a new idea or a new pitch or a new financial pitch. It was just hammering the same thing back to Mike, which was brutal honesty. We want Mike to be a coach and a builder. At the end of the day, it’s sort of funny; the teams that get pushed out early on don’t get their feelings hurt as bad. The teams that Mike might like the most inevitably will walk away with the most hurt feelings. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t us, we probably wouldn’t say, “yeah, we made it to the final two”; we’d have been upset as well. I saw in Mike’s eyes in Prague, it’s a hard, difficult, excruciating decision to make. Not just for yourself, but your family. Our focus on Mike again was consistent from day one to Prague, then we left it at that. Mike had his process, Mike came back to us. What he agreed to do was not some last minute, last hour pitch. What Mike bought into here in Toronto was what we talked about the first time we spoke.

Babcock on commitment from the ownership board:
When I talked to Larry, George and Guy about the process here, one of my questions to them was real clear: Are you willing to stick to it, are we in it together? When it’s hard, when it’s really hard, are you going to be in it? Are you for sure? Once I got that commitment, it was different. Just like Shanny said, it’s interesting, when I sat with Larry and Shanny the first night, they made me the offer that night; nothing changed that night to the end.

Video of Mike Babcock Press Conference

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What a day in Leafland. It wasn’t exactly a Clarkson trade-level blindside news bomb, but even best-in-the-biz Bob McKenzie gave the Leafs zero chance at landing Mike Babcock 24 hours ago, as it appears only Shanahan himself knows what Shanahan is up to.

The latest news and notes:

  • The angle of Babcock attracting talent is going to be fascinating to follow (Stamkos 2016!!) and we may be seeing our first signs of it with a potential assistant coach hiring of Guy Boucher. The Red Wings reportedly were interested in Boucher last season as an assistant under Babcock, but he was locked into his contract with Bern in the Swiss League, which is no longer the case. We know Boucher was interviewed by the Leafs for the head coaching job quite recently, but we don’t know how interested he would be in an assistant spot or if there are other head coaching opportunities out there for Boucher. Louis Jean thinks it’s unlikely.
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  • Bob McKenzie on the hire: “The thought was that maybe Toronto was too re-build-y for him, that that was why he might want to stay in Detroit. This is a hell of a coup by the Maple Leafs to sell Babcock on how this is a huge mountain to climb, and we’re all here – Kyle Dubas, Mark Hunter, Brendan Shanahan – because we want that challenge, and of course it doesn’t hurt when you can give someone an unprecedented term – an eight year term for an NHL coach – and unprecedented dollars.
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  • Mike Babcock will earn more than two-times the amount of the next highest paid coach in the early years of his deal:
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    1. Mike Babcock, $6.25M
    2. Todd McLellan, $3M
    3. Joel Quenneville, $2.75M
    4. Claude Julien $2.5M
    5. Darryl Sutter, $2M, Michel Therrien, $2M, Alain Vigneault, $2M, Peter Laviolette, $2M, Lindy Ruff, $2M
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  • Bob McKenzie on the GM search: “There were some people in Detroit when he walked out the door today who said, ‘you can hire a GM in Toronto, but you’ve got a guy in Mike Babcock who knows what he wants in players.’ But you need somebody to do the GM’s job. There is a job to be done there and it’s more than pushing paper. Even if you do have a strong willed coach who has some real strong ideas of like Mike Babcock will on what he wants in players and player acquisition, you do need someone who able to say to him no, or that’s not where we need to go, or to suggest a different plan of attack. Brendan Shanahan will continue to look both externally and internally for a GM.”
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  • He hadn’t been mentioned for a few weeks, but Sean Burke remains a possibility on the GM front, according to Renaud Lavoie.
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  • There were rumblings of an out clause after five years in Babcock’s deal, but that’s been denied by Bob McKenzie. The Leafs will have to give up a third round pick sometime in the next thee years as compensation.
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  • Most fascinating to listen out for in tomorrow’s press conference with Babcock will be how much he emphasizes and embraces patience, the “process,” and the importance of youth and development. There have been some concerns voiced about a win-now mentality Babcock could be bringing, or that Babcock rode his veterans hard and the Wings weren’t the easiest team to break into for young players. Babcock undoubtedly will have to shift gears to some degree with the Leafs. As Babcock said himself, “Kronwall, Datsyuk and Zetterberg carried me around for years.” He’s missed the playoffs only once in his 12 seasons as an NHL head coach. It seems likely both of those things will be coming to an end in Toronto.
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  • Darren Dreger on TSN Drive, when Babcock came to Toronto midseason and was bombarded with questions about his future:  “The story was Mike said, ‘What a circus. I can’t even believe what Carlyle has to deal with day in day out.'”  Welcome to the circus, Mike.
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  • The press conference will air at 11 a.m. EST, and we’ll have the stream up live here on the site.

Extra Reading:

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Mike Babcock
MAILMASTER SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23: Head coach Mike Babcock of Canada applauds his team following their 3-0 victory during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Mike Babcock is set to become the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Babcock is flying into Toronto tomorrow morning, when he’s expected to put pen to paper on a long-term, unprecedentedly expensive contract with the Maple Leafs.

The one thing MLSE can’t make excuses for is being outbid in any non-capped competition. There is some strange criticism surfacing on Twitter about MLSE “just throwing money” at Babcock, but there’s really no excuse for MLSE not to have made it very clear to Babcock from the beginning that they’ll offer a million more a year than any other team’s best offer. Why not? Think of all the money they’ve spent on bad players and management personnel in the last 10 years, many of whom they’re still paying. This is where the Leafs have to flex their money muscle and put their financial wares to a real competitive advantage; when it can buy one of the best hockey minds in the game. And they’ve damn well done it.

We all know what Babcock has won as a coach, in the NHL and in international competition. As we saw in Anthony’s great piece on what Babcock can actually bring to a team, Babcock has coached a top 5 possession team in six of the last eight years, and never did any of his Red Wings teams finish outside the top 10 in CF%. Perhaps the best single example of Babcock’s abilities behind the bench was when he managed to sustain their ridiculous post-season appearance streak in 2013-14, despite being on the outside looking in late in the season while dealing with a rash of injuries to their top veteran players. His teams are always really well schooled in the neutral zone and organized in their breakouts, and the results bear that out in terms of possession.

There has been a lot of noise about how the timing isn’t right for a win-now coach in Babcock. That assumes Babcock is entering this situation completely blind, which he obviously isn’t. Clearly the money and the allure of taking the biggest franchise in hockey out of the ashes to its first Cup in half a century has attracted one of the best coaches with the biggest egos in the game. This is a project and the biggest one in all of hockey. The challenge is huge and the rewards even bigger. If Babcock wanted a turnkey operation, he would’ve gone to St. Louis, or at least stuck with the program in Detroit.

While many have expressed concern about the timing of this, if it ruins the “tank” or if it changes the plan in some way, perhaps understated is what Babcock’s credibility can mean for this rebuild in terms of the stability behind the Leaf bench. Where a less experienced hire might get swallowed up by the market after a lean year and a half in the win-loss column, Babcock comes with the credibility and the contract to really see this through. This doesn’t necessarily mean the plan has changed. The only mistake would be in thinking the Leafs are going to be competitive the moment Babcock steps behind the bench.

 

The Leaf roster is littered with holes. There’s no first line center in Toronto and there’s no high-end number one defenceman. Babcock isn’t either of those, but he’s a presence who can instantly begin to transform the culture of this organization. We know from his track record he’ll introduce structure in the Leafs game and set an unyieldingly high professional standard. He’ll ensure young players develop in the right environment. A culture change doesn’t happen overnight with one hire, but ostensibly Babcock’s as close to a quick fix in that department as you can get in any one personnel addition.

That’s to say nothing of what his reputation and credibility might mean in terms of attracting other talent throughout the rebuild, be it players or assistant coaches (there is some talk Guy Boucher may still be in the mix as an assistant). This is a coach who is going to be involved in the front office decision making process, who can help develop young players the right way, who can attract talent on name alone; all things that help a rebuild, not hurt it.

As we mentioned in a post last week, it was always possible the Leafs not naming a GM before a coach might have been about Babcock all along. If we assume Babcock has been promised a spot at the management table and enhanced front office input, this may well mean the Leafs go with the group they have, perhaps giving the official GM title to Mark Hunter.

That’s all speculation and there is so much that will shake out in the coming few days, but the Leafs have just landed the consensus best coach in the NHL. Instead of stressing about what it might mean for the 2016 draft pick, take some time and celebrate the Leafs actually winning something of significance.

Welcome to Toronto, Mike Babcock.

Further Reading on Mike Babcock from Anthony Petrielli

Mike Babcock- McGill 2013 Honorary Doctorate address

A really good anecdote on attitude.

Mitch Marner
October 15, 2014. Mitchell Marner (93) of the London Knights follows the play during a game between the London Knights and the Erie Otters played at Budweiser Gardens in London Ontario, Canada. The Knights went on to win the game 4-3 in a shootout.

Maple Leafs hire Lindsay Hofford

lindsay-hoffordThe Leafs officially added former London Knights director of scouting Lindsay Hofford to their amateur scouting department yesterday. Hofford will be one of Mark Hunter’s guys and also has a connection to player development consultant Darryl Belfry through the Pro Hockey Development Group.

Hofford’s history with 2015 draft prospect Mitchell Marner is long – Hofford had him on his team at the Hill Academy in Vaughan, with the Don Mills Flyers, and in London on the Knights — and will no doubt add more fuel to the fire that Marner is going to be the Leafs’ pick at number four. It’s hard to picture a draft team that includes Hunter and Hofford not holding preference for Marner, but their foremost interest at the end of the day is to be objective in taking the best player available.

While experience will be a popular concern with this current management regime, one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that the Leafs couldn’t have a front office better prepared for the 2015 Draft, at least in terms of its knowledge of and familiarity with the draft class’ Ontario Hockey League prospects.

  • Anthony Petrielli: What would the Leafs be getting in Mike Babcock? (MLHS)
    The question for the Leafs is really what they are trying to do. If they want to tank and continue to collect high draft picks, this isn’t the guy to do it with. If they want to get better this summer and start making moves to get competitive, Babcock would be a great hire. There is no in between here.
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  • Elliotte Friedman: 30 Thoughts — The Last Days of Babwatch (Sportsnet.ca)
    McPhee is in the Toronto picture, as is Tampa assistant GM Julien BriseBois, although that is extremely unlikely. BriseBois declined comment with the Lightning still playing, but a couple of sources indicate he has made it clear he will not be leaving right now. He’s got a good situation there and apparently wants to remain for at least one more playoff run.
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  • Scott Wheeler: Lindsay Hofford joins Leafs front office (Pension Plan Puppets)
    Hofford insisted size wasn’t an issue for the diminutive forward (Marner) though. “The guy’s an impact, elite player,” he said. “He’s been at every level able to surpass any limits that are set on him because of his size and whatnot so he’s obviously got a bright future.”
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  • Jonas Siegel: Leafs offseason to-do list just keeps growing (TSN.ca)
    The organization is also going about its search in an unconventional manner at the urging of Shanahan, content to hire coach before general manager if need be. There’s also the prospect of the front office (save the general manager) already in place and the looming voice of Shanahan above whatever power said general manager will hold.
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  • Jonas Siegel: Gord Dineen contemplating situation after getting told he won’t return as Marlies head coach (Twitter)

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From Tuesday’s TSN Drive segment, Bob McKenzie talks about the Leafs GM and coaching searches as well as the final day of Babcock Watch.

On where the Maple Leafs stand in their search for a coach and GM, Mike Babcock and other coaching candidates, and Sheldon Keefe:
Brendan Shanahan is operating in a pretty strong veil of secrecy right now. I wouldn’t presume to say that this guy was their number one choice and he’s gone; obviously, if they could get Babcock they would. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. If they really, really wanted Todd McLellan, they could’ve done what the Edmonton Oilers did and just said, “let’s forget about Babcock for a minute, let’s go after McLellan,” but they didn’t do that. So that tells me that they wanted Babcock, McLellan seemed to be a consideration but not the kind of “we got to have that guy.” I’m not sure there was another guy beyond Babcock who they went, “we’ve got to have that guy.” I don’t think Brendan Shanahan and the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to sit there wringing their hands going, “oh my god we just Jeff Blashill as a candidate” if Babcock goes to Buffalo and Blashill comes up to Detroit, but I think Blashill is a candidate. I think that Guy Boucher, a name we’ve talked about before, is a candidate for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I’m sure there are probably some others that we haven’t stumbled upon just yet.

I don’t know that they have to save face, honestly. I think what they’ve recognized is they need a general manager and a head coach; the general manager situation isn’t as front burner right now. In theory, in the conventional hockey model, you’re supposed to hire the GM first, who hires the coach. This is not a conventional set up in Toronto, and the nature of the beast is right now the coaching market is hot. You need to get into the coaches market, both feet firmly in that. The General Manager thing – they’ve talked to George McPhee, they’ve talked to Mike Futa. They are interested in talking to Jeff Gorton from the New York Rangers, maybe Julien BriseBois from Tampa. Those guys are still playing, they’re not available to be spoken to. They can kind of put the GM search on the back burner for now, and focus on the coach, and we’ll see where it goes from here. Do they call Paul McLean back up? I mentioned Guy Boucher as a possibility. Across the board, the coach will likely come first, and now they just cleaned house at the AHL level with the Marlies and everyone presumes Sheldon Keefe is going to be the next head coach of the Marlies. That is a distinct possibility, although for now Sheldon Keefe is leaving Sault Ste. Marie tomorrow morning to go back to his offseason home in Arizona with his wife and family. He’s talked to Kyle Dubas once and he will talk to the organization at large later. He would appear to be the frontrunner for that position.

I think he recognizes there are other teams besides the Leafs that are interested in Keefe for an AHL coaching job. In a perfect world, he might have wanted another year or two in junior hockey, but I also think that when opportunity knocks and you’re a hot commodity, sometimes you’ve got to answer the door. Especially when you’re still in your apprentice mode. It’s not like Sheldon Keefe is being interviewed or asked to be a head coach of an NHL team, where he says to himself, “you know, I might not be ready for that yet.” Taking that next step to the AHL is probably one that Sheldon Keefe can handle and most likely will. The relationship between him and Kyle Dubas is very strong, but we will have to see if any other teams get into the mix and how things go when Keefe talks to Brendan Shanahan and the rest of the Leafs organization.

On Mike Babcock’s final decision:
I can answer that two ways. I won’t be surprised if he chooses to go be the next coach of the Buffalo Sabres, but again, this notion – and I saw the AP report that they are in negotiations – technically he’s been in negotiations for more than a week. Terry Pegula laid a big fat contract offer on him before he went to the World Championships with Kenny Holland, and effectively this entire process, the entire open window thing, is nothing but a negotiation; not just with the Buffalo Sabres, but with the Detroit Red Wings as well. So, I know if I were Mike Babcock and I had this splendid offer from the Buffalo Sabres on the table, and I can continue to try to up the ante on that, I would go back to the Detroit Red Wings and say, “Okay, Kenny, here’s where I am at,” and “What’s the final offer going to be?” I don’t know if either side has presented their absolute best offer. I suspect, we’re at 5 o’clock the day before so I I’m guessing it’s happened by now, my guess is he’s going to take the best and final offers from those two teams in particular. I don’t think anybody thinks or feels the Toronto Maple Leafs or St. Louis Blues or the San Jose Sharks are in this ball game right now. It’s a two-team race. I know everybody thinks they know which way Mike Babcock is going to go; I’m not sure Mike Babcock entirely knows which way he is going to go. Even if he does, I’m not sure it’s in his best interest to tell anyone that until he’s further down the line.

The Red Wings are prepared to pay him but only to a point. The numbers we’ve heard thrown around – people are saying Detroit has offered him 3.25 million, I think it’s probably a little more than that. I don’t know how much more, but I’m going to guess it’s in the ballpark of 3.5 million, and that they may be prepared to go higher in the final, final offer. Or maybe not; that’s one the Illitch’s and Jimmy Devellano and Ken Holland would have to sort out amongst themselves. Let’s assume for a moment the Detroit universe of money is between $3.5 and 4 million a year, which is a huge increase over what he’s making right now. I think it’s safe to say the Buffalo offer would be, at the low end, $5 million a year and obviously the term would be five, six years. If Babcock is going to go to Buffalo he knows there might be a lean year or two on the front end but some rewards on the back end, so let’s make sure the deal is for a good long time. It could be a difference of more than a million dollars a year on a potentially six-year deal. So you’re talking six million dollars, which for coaches money – I mean, I know the average NFL or MLB player could sniff at six million when you’re making 15-20 – but the NHL universe is different especially for coaches. That’s a lot of money.

But I’ve known Mike Babcock for a long time and Mike Babcock is not just going to take a job he doesn’t want because of the money. You’ve got an owner like Terry Pegula, who anybody says to meet him is to want to work for him, he’s a very nice man, I think he makes people feel comfortable, there’s a reason why he’s got the bills. It’s not just the money — obviously when you’re backed by that much money, a lot of things become easy, but I mean, Rex Ryan, he got Pat Lafontaine to come out of semi retirement on the hockey front to run the Sabres briefly. Pegula’s a strong factor. The fact that he knows the general manager in Tim Murray from their days in Anaheim. The fact that they’ve got some pieces – they’ve got Jack Eichel, you saw Tyler Ennis play at the World Championships — this may be an underrated player — you’ve got Evander Kane, you’ve got some defencemen in Ristolainen and Zadorov and McCabe and some others. There’s some pieces there. They’re not nearly where they need to be right now and Babcock would know going in eyes wide open that there’s a year or two or three of rebuilding to be done, but if you’ve got a six or a seven year deal… It also represents a huge challenge. In addition to the money, there are reasons why it would be attractive for him, but he’s also go to way all of that against the known quantity. The known quantity is the Illitch’s, Ken Holland, the hockey team he coaches, the staff he’s got and he works with, and knowing what the difference in money is.

There’s no question there is conventional thinking and there is out of the box thinking. At some point in time, because the Detroit Red Wings – hey listen, if they didn’t want Mike Babcock back, they wouldn’t have allowed the organization to be submitted to this process, which has become circus like and it can’t help. That’s not a criticism of Babcock or anybody else. The moment that the Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings embarked on this process, they had to know it was going to be a bit of a circus. And Detroit is the least circus like organization in the NHL. The reason they did it was either because, a) they really want Babcock back, or b) they wanted to set up a foolproof way to make sure they would get a third round pick in compensation. I think it’s more the former than the latter, but if Babcock decides to walk, they’ve got a really good hockey coach in Jeff Blashill. I don’t think they’ll bat an eyelash if Mike Babcock walks out the door, a third round pick comes in, Blashill comes up from Grand Rapids, and away we go.

The Red Wings are offering him a million more than they were paying him, but they aren’t going to get into the $5 million-plus range that Terry Pegula would do at the drop of a hat. I get the feeling – and I could be wrong, I’m not going to speak for Mr. Pegula – I get the feeling that if someone said, “if you just bump it up to six, it’s guaranteed it’s going to happen,” [he’d say], “let’s do it! I’m not getting beat for a million bucks on this one, so let’s do it.” It’s going to be fascinating to see the dynamic at work. As I say, everyone has an opinion – the money will win out, he’s got to stay in Detroit, that’s his home… I think Mike Babcock has a few hours of decision making that will be really, really difficult. Maybe he has made up his mind, maybe I’m naïve to think that he hasn’t, but I also know if I was him, I might let a lot of people think I’ve that made up my mind in order to see what really shakes from the trees between now and when I really have to make up my mind.

UPDATE (1:35pm):

Update: 2pm

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Did Bettors Take Advantage of “Tanking” Scenario?

The latest online gambling news in Canada suggests that the C-290 sports betting bill will remained stalled in the Senate for reasons other than the influence of professional sports leagues. It would seem apparent that the league is constructing the narrative that there is indeed a huge difference between what is, in effect, a “parlay” situation for betting on games and that which involves wagers on one game at a time.

If there is any compelling argument the league uses, it is their statement that “Making single-game sports gambling a widespread legitimized institution will portray an image to our fans, including the youth, that gambling and sports are not only an accepted combination, but a natural one, so that if they enjoy sports, they will also enjoy gambling.”

But there is also that assertion on their part that fans will perceive that if there is single-game wagering on their events, it would lead to a perception that the games aren’t completely legit, because of the possibility that certain factors that could impact the outcome of a game could be manipulated, namely player injury reports. Of course, this position is a bit thin. Gambling exists now, in bigger volume than anything that could be produced as a result of the passage of Bill C-290, so if there is a hazard (and there is no indication that there IS one, relative to legalized gambling), how would it be significantly exacerbated? #/p

And let’s talk specifically about the nature of these games. If we humor those in the NHL who apparently believe their personnel are vulnerable to being bribed or coerced, what, short of a conspiracy, could possibly wind up affecting the outcome of a game? Certainly a single superstar player, or a goaltender, could have that kind of influence, but is this any different than the possibilities in any of the major sports? Imaginations can run wild and construct any scenario that is convenient at any given time.

What should be far more alarming for the league, and what should have brought much more of an admonition, is the common practice on the part of some teams to engage in what is, in point of fact, “tanking” in order to improve draft position – in this particular case, the chances of winning the NHL Draft Lottery. When a team “tanks” a game, it doesn’t necessarily “throw” it or take part in a fix. It is more sophisticated than that, and is more a product of organizational philosophies and attitudes, put into action, that has the residual effect of the team losing games. In these cases they were non-contenders to begin with, so they simply began a purge of certain personnel in an attempt to “rebuild” for the future.

Much fanfare has been given to this in the National Basketball Association this season; the public and press has openly talked about the tanking efforts of franchises such as the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, who either made curious trades or sat out injured players longer than necessary , perhaps “shutting them down” altogether. The bottom line is that there is not an effort that is focused on victory, but in improving the salary cap situation or being in a better spot to win when the lottery is conducted.

You can imagine that it is really feverish when a player who is potentially transformative is available in a draft. That is the case in the NHL this season, as Connor McDavid is not only the clear #1 selection, but also a player expected to be among the league’s elite very quickly; conceivably someone who can change a team’s fortunes around immediately.

McDavid, who got “exceptional player status” to enter the Ontario League a year early, is finishing up his third season with the Erie Otters, where he scored 44 goals with 76 assists in his first 47 games. He is in the “can’t miss” category.
Jay Jablonski, president of Image Sports Network, which televises all the Otters’ games, calls McDavid “the next Gretzky” as many others do.

“He’s a great kid and a great hockey player,” says Jablonski.” I’ve produced every regular season home game that he’s played in since he arrived in Erie and every night he amazes me.”

Enough NHL teams were also amazed enough that they took to tanking just to have a better chance at his services. Teams who joined in the non-effort included the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs, who fired coach Ron Wilson in mid-season and participated in the kinds of deals that seem designed to improve draft position. Hockey writers in North America enjoyed speculating as to when their own teams would start to tank for McDavid, once they fell out of the playoff race.
And by the way, as an added attraction, the team with the worst record, at the very least, had the opportunity to draft Jack Eichel, another “can’t miss” guy who is a center at Boston University.

Sure, this may have afforded an edge to some sports bettors who could see this trend unfolding before others, and in hockey, wit the presence of money lines and puck lines, that is something that can be taken advantage of. But there is an integrity concern here as well, an the NHL seemed to be in denial about it. When team executives construct their lineups to minimize chances of winning, it is not only inherently dishonest, but also cheats ticket holders as well. They bought seats in advance expecting something better. They didn’t get it. But the NHL is more concerned about gambling, which exists in abundance already, prompting outright game-fixing, for which there is no evidence at all.

By the way, the biggest loser did not necessarily turn out to be the biggest “winner.” The Oilers, with the third-worst record in the league, won the lottery and will get McDavid, so another Gretzky, perhaps, comes to town. But on an overall basis, does the NHL win here? And do they bolster their case against Bil C-290? We think not.

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Toronto Maple Leafs’ Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas announced changes to the Toronto Marlies coaching staff on Tuesday as Gord Dineen will not return as head coach.

Dineen however has been offered a position to remain on as an associate coach while the Club announced it will begin its search for a new head coach immediately. Associate coach Derek King was relieved of his duties while assistant coach Ben Simon has been offered another position within the organization.

Named head coach on July 15, 2014, Dineen had also served as the Marlies’ assistant coach in their five previous seasons. In 2014-15, the Marlies secured the seventh seed with 87 points and a 39-28-9 regular season record but were eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs in the first round, losing the best-of-five series against the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings) three games to two.


It seems pretty obvious what the Leafs are doing here, which is making space for Sheldon Keefe to step into the Toronto Marlies head coaching spot.

The AHL should be a breeding ground for players and coaches alike, and if the feeling was Dineen is unlikely to be a part of the Leafs future, it makes sense for them to bring in a young up and coming hockey mind in Keefe into the Marlies HC role.

While it has long been in the cards with the Dubas – Keefe connection, It is worth noting Keefe’s experience is limited. He’s spent just two and a half seasons in the OHL, and while the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds had strong regular season records the past two seasons, the team couldn’t get the job done in the playoffs, getting swept in round two in 2013-14 and getting ousted by Erie this year despite entering the series with the better record and a deeper team. As much as McDavid is an all world talent, Keefe has some responsibility in the failure to game plan him and limit McDavid to less than the staggering three points a game he scored throughout the six-game series.

Feb 21, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock watches his team warm up prior to the game between the Dallas Stars and the Red Wings during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Darren Dreger’s 25-minute sit down with Ken Holland and Mike Babcock yesterday left one with the impression that staying with the Red Wings is where Babcock is leaning, but then again he was sitting right next to his good friend and long-time boss in Detroit.

The worst case scenario from the Leafs perspective would seem to be Babcock landing in Buffalo. While Babcock would be going to a new division rival, Jeff Blashill, who was given permission by Ken Holland to talk to NHL teams last summer and chose to bide his time in the AHL for one more year, would be likely to be moved up the ladder into the Wings head coaching position, no longer available to the Leafs either.

It sounds like Babcock has no interest in dragging the courting process much longer than early next week, so we’ll have our answer soon.

You also wonder if the Leafs GM search hinges to some degree on Babcock’s choice. There’s rumblings the Leafs would like to pursue Jeff Gorton in New York, who hasn’t been allowed to talk to other team while the Rangers compete deep into the playoffs. But the Leafs have likely promised Babcock enhanced input in the front office in their pitch; the dual GM-coach role is no longer a feasible one-man responsibility in modern NHL management, but Babcock is said to be seeking more involvement in the front office decision-making process than the average coach. It’s no secret Shanahan is the de facto GM (in the traditional definition of GM) in Toronto, while there have been some rumblings Mark Hunter wouldn’t mind adding the GM’s title to his placard. Does Babcock add the other voice Shanahan is looking for in management, should he choose Toronto?

That’s little more than idle speculation, though. The fact is Shanahan has much of the media totally in the dark on this and the wait and see game continues in Leafland. We do know the first domino will drop May 20th or sooner.

Saturday Links:

  • Darren Dreger: Exclusive: Babcock discusses coaching future (TSN.ca)
    “To be honest with you that date to me is going to be moved up. When I get home from the World Championship and sit down; enough time already, let’s get on with it. I bet you by the 20th I’m going to know what I’m doing.
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  • Chris Lund: Leafs prospect Joshua starring in USHL playoffs (MapleLeafs.com)
    The power forward presence of the Leafs prospect has been a massive asset and his consistency has been a key for the Stampede throughout their Clark Cup run. He has recorded points in seven of the 10 playoff games he has dressed in. The lone game he did not suit up in — game one of Sioux Falls’ series against Tri-City — was a 4-2 loss for his club.
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  • Jeff Simmons: Friedman: Bernier should aim for short-term deal (Sportsnet.ca)
    In a guest appearance on Dean Blundell & Co. on Friday, Friedman said that Bernier’s best course of action would be to accept a short-term deal with the Maple Leafs this summer in order to rebuild his value and essentially bet on himself.
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  • David Alter: Player development staff now on deck (MapleLeafs.com)
    Darryl Belfry: “What I do is I analyze players’ game habits and then problem solve from a skill development prospective to open up new pathways for them to perform.”
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