Brendan Shanahan joined Hockey Central at Noon to discuss the hiring of Mike Babcock.
Advice for Babcock dealing with this market:
I think that Mike obviously is an experienced guy, he’s been in the Stanley Cup Final a few times. He’s seen it, he’s seen this type of scrutiny, this type of pressure, this type of crowd. He’s been to the Olympics, so he understands when an entire country – like the way the city of Toronto loves and pulls for the Leafs and goes through our highs and lows with the team – he’s felt the whole country do that. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of advice you need to give to a guy with his experience and the places that he’s been and the things that he’s seen.
On the process of landing Babcock:
We went at him early and we got to him after Kenny Holland had given us permission. We spoke to him and flew him in. For Mike, I think it was a lot of the decision making process. He told me he was going to visit a lot of teams. Early on he wanted to get to know what Toronto was about and the people here that he would be working with. I think the first day was just him getting to know us and trying to understand if we shared the same vision. He’s a very prepared guy. When he came here he know what Toronto would have to do to ultimately compete for a Cup. I ‘m sure he did that for every city he went to. He knew every prospect, I’m sure he did that for every city, he’s a very prepared guy. But he wanted to meet the people. We didn’t talk money that day. The next day, we made an offer to him. We knew he was visiting other teams and a couple days later he went to Prague. From that point on there was nothing new, there was no twist, no turn, there was no last minute snatching something back. It was just, whenever I had an opportunity to speak with him, it was just about being consistent with what I had told him from day one. Being honest with him, telling the truth about who we are and where we intend to be. In spite of the fact that everyone, somehow, and I can’t tell you what was going on in Mike’s head, but everyone sort of claimed we were out of it; we never felt out out of it, but we liked that everyone thought we were. That I think is why some people were surprised; it seemed like we suddenly came on at the end. I can tell you there was really no deviation form us. We were under the radar, that doesn’t happen very often for us in Toronto, that’s a good place to be. When he called me up and said, “I liked everything we talked about for the last couple weeks, I’m in.” It was a nice shock, we had some other details to work out. We didn’t know that was going to happen but we were hopeful that it would.
Does Babcock change the plan at all or accelerate the process:
It doesn’t change the plan. Like I said, Mike does his homework. As we were outlining the plan, he was outlining the same plan. I’m sure in other cities, it wasn’t about building, it was about instant gratification, it was about winning the Cup that year. He had that group ready to do it. He knew when he first came here the very first time, he spoke about the same process we’ve been speaking about for the last several months. So does it change the plan hiring him? No, it was part of the condition of him coming here. From his point to us, was that we would stick with the plan. I said we were on the same page there.
On the talk of Babcock’s “win now” mentality:
I read that stuff, too. I’ve seen that from him. I‘ve played for him. I was a member of his team one year. I understand that, but as I mentioned in the press conference, our first phone call was a difficult one because I had to tell some very hard truths. I know that wasn’t necessarily consistent with the Mike Babcock instant gratification, and I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about it, but when I sensed that he was interested in building something, then I thought we he had a chance. 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. That we really did need his help and that we really were just starting down this journey.
On his experience with Babcock as a coach:
Whether you’re on a fourth line, or whether you’re a guy like Steve Yzerman destined for the Hall of Fame. I believe a coach has to coach everybody. I really like coaches that can get the most out of your first line guys, your second, your third and your fourths. It’s constantly fluid, I think. To me it can’t be understated also that some of the players Mike has coached — I think he’s a teacher — there’s players that Mike has coached that did not come up traditionally through high level rankings; guys who played in the ECHL who Mike was able to teach and get the most out of. He can coach the star players and he can also coach the role players. When you play for Mike you know what your role is. And if you don’t want to or can’t keep up with the role he has for you, he really doesn’t have a lot of time for you. For somebody that is giving the effort and is trying to give Mike what he wants from that role, he’s going to work with you.
On the GM search:
I just tried as best as I could to use common sense. The coaches were going, they were getting hired. There was a little bit more time I felt with some of the GMs I was talking to. There were less open GM positions, so there was less competition for us. In the coaching department, there was immediate competition. In a perfect world, do you hire the GM then the coach? Sure. But at the expense of waiting to get the right guy? So you hire a GM and say let’s go find a coach, and all the guys you wanted have taken jobs. That didn’t provide me with much common sense. I have been talking to some people and have some people in mind.
I don’t know if we need to have someone in place (by the draft). Ideally, you’d like to have your team in place immediately, but there are 29 other teams competing with us. This is a very competitive League, there are other people that are doing their best to make their team better at the expense of your team. I can’t give you a timeline. I didn’t give you a timeline on the coach. I liked that we worked quietly under the radar; people said we weren’t working but we were working. We’ll go back to work and see what we have.