Do you hear that music? It is about to get louder this week. It’s the final stanza of this year’s NHL coaches Musical Chairs.
Here is what we do know:
Mike Babcock gets to pick any seat he wants and he has at least three suitors; the incumbents from Detroit, the rebuilding of Buffalo, and the certain circus in Toronto.
Barring a San Jose, St. Louis or Philadelphia play in the 11th hour, the Wings, Sabres and Leafs present three different scenarios for Babcock. He knows that Ken Holland and the Wings will always have that pipeline of talent, but consider that the Wings haven’t been in the Stanley Cup Final in seven years, and haven’t won the trophy in eight. The Wings haven’t been out of the second round of the playoffs since their run to the Final in 2009. The Wings have plateaued and have shown no signs of eclipsing their current form anytime soon.
If Babcock goes to Buffalo, he gets to work with Tim Murray as a GM, who is new to the job but more than capable. He also is assured of working with Jack Eichel, a special player in a very special draft year. The Buffalo build will certainly be a long one, but Babcock can mold the team the way he wants it, and put his stamp on it.
In Toronto, there are so many cooks in the kitchen, Babcock will not know if he’s the head chef, or the fry guy. Brendan Shanahan is clearly calling the shots in Toronto, but he has to hire a GM, sort out the locker room and put the Leafs back on stable footing…this will not be an overnight fix.
The last thing you want in this situation is to be the team left standing with no coach when the music stops, which is why Edmonton, despite their plethora of talent and Connor McDavid on the horizon, are taking no chances. They should finalize their signing of Todd McLellan this week, and when they do, that is one more quality coach out of the picture.
Whatever the destination, what we do know is that the pressure of success will be put squarely on Babcock. You don’t get to be the belle of the ball without everyone wanting to see if you can dance. Babcock will not only be asked to dance…he’ll be asked to tango.