Mike Babcock has always been an enigma to me. Very good and not so good. Overrated and underrated. Full of himself and under appreciated. When he came to Detroit he was like a breath of fresh air. So much better than the stoic Dave Lewis. Babcock energized the Red Wings. Implemented a solid defensively responsible system. He made complete players out of a young Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He still had the great Nick Lidstrom. He'd make any head coach look better than he really was.
The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008. Replacing a struggling Hasek in the first round against Nashville with Chris Osgood turned out to be a brilliant move. He rescued Danny Cleary and turned him into a valuable role player. He took what Ken Holland gave him and molded his team into a finely tuned machine who dummied their opponents most nights.
He was extremely well prepared. Some of his best coaching came after Lidstrom retired and he still somehow found a way to make this Red Wings team qualify for the playoffs. The talent slowly dwindled and Datsyuk and Zetterberg got older. Holland's failure at the draft eliminated any chance of the Red Wings dynasty continuing.
So Babcock left Detroit and went to Toronto. I felt after 10 years it was the right time for Babs to leave. If I heard him refer to himself in the third person again, I may have stuck my head in a blender. I didn't agree with Jeff Blashill replacing him. I wanted a veteran head coach but that's another story. So many Red Wings fans believed given the talent Babs had in Detroit, he should've won even more Cups.
A Mathieu Schneider injury in 2007 and a Marian Hossa separated shoulder in 2009 may have prevented a 3-peat. That's debatable and you can make a case for or against it. When Babcock was on his game he would out wit opposing head coaches by mixing up his lines or defense pairs. He would anticipate and be proactive. When he was at his worst he'd be stubborn and refuse to adapt.
He's full of himself, confident and no one will tell him how to coach. That can he good or it can blow up in his face. I've seen some of this in Toronto. Babs seemed to be just what a young rebuilding Leafs team needed. Structure. Leadership. Confidence. An actual plan. Progression. Buy in. Things were going very well it seemed. So what happened?
Some will say that he wasn't provided with "his" kinds of players to succeed in the playoffs. Others will say he was handed young superstars and should've been able to make winners out of them.
His confidence was once applauded. His stubbornness was criticized.
He won 2 Olympic gold medals coaching Team Canada. But who couldn't coach those teams to gold, right? Sidney Crosby loved playing for Mike Babcock. Mike Commodore feels differently. 😂 Babs is very good and very bad. Depending on which side of the fence you're standing, you're right. Or wrong. Or maybe both? He's a lightning rod for conversation.
Myself, there's alot for me to like about Mike Babcock. There's alot for me to not like about him too. Is he a good head coach? Yes. Is he as good as he thinks he is? No. Overrated? Yes. Underrated? Yes. Will he be successful again? Yes. Was he a convenient scapegoat for the Leafs? Yes. Did he deserve to be fired by Toronto? Yes. You likely feel differently. That's ok. Luke Glendening and Zach Hyman will likely tell you they owe their careers to Mike Babcock. Other players will tell you he ruined their careers.
When you are an NHL head coach for almost 20 years you're bound to make alot of friends and enemies. To me Mike Babcock is what he is and he's not changing for anyone. He is his own man. Right or wrong. He has his strengths and weaknesses just like we all do. He'll land on his feet and create some excitement and it'll be interesting to see how he fares.