Among the storylines about who will fill out the Red Wings' roster and whether Ken Holland would be able to pull off a good trade before the season starts has been the neverending talk about head coach Mike Babcock's contractual status. Babcock has one more year on his deal with the Red Wings and would be the single most highly-sought-after coach on the market next year if he becomes a free agent.
Despite Babcock's continued insistence that he likes it in Detroit and that the grass isn't always greener and that he's not going to be a distraction this season if he coaches without an extension, the truth is that the story won't die until he's signed. That's bad news for people who are ready to kill it, because today's reporting has this to say on the topic:
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock met Tuesday regarding an extension for Babcock, but a deal doesn't appear imminent.
In fact, it might not come to be before the Wings open Oct. 9, which is when Babcock has said he no longer wants to talk about his contract situation.
That's Helene St. James' opener to her article posted today with the jaunty title Holland: Mike Babcock extension unlikely before season. Helene goes on to put lipstick on the pig by reminding us that both sides are respectful enough to not hold these negotiations through the press at least... even though there have been several comments over the summer which indicate that they may indeed by doing exactly that.
Take this tweet from Ansar Khan this morning for example.
Babcock, on whether Tomas Jurco, who is waiver exempt, will make the season-opening roster: "He will if I'm picking the team."— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) October 1, 2014
Well there are only two people who ultimately pick the team and they don't always have the exact same priorities in mind, so it's not exactly difficult to tie that comment to contract negotiations.
Of course, that's all speculation because, as Helene reminds us, they'll never try to deal publicly through the media...
For what it's worth, there's really no reason for Babcock to sign an extension during the season. He holds every single one of the cards. It's possible that his stock could fall this season with a bad performance or if players start grumbling about him to the press, but I don't see either of those being terribly likely. Even if they do happen, he'll still almost certainly be next season's most highly-paid head coach. I'm not sure that Babcock is going to trade leverage just so the diggers stop asking him about his contract, especially considering that he's pretty much got carte blanche to deal with them however he wants.
Think about it: if Babcock's extension becomes a distraction for the team, then that distraction is going to be blamed on the media who won't stop hounding him about it. If Holland wants him back (which all indications say he does), it's not going to be Babcock who gets thrown under the bus for causing problems.
The good news for the Wings is that they do have their next head coach already positioned in Grand Rapids. Holland isn't in a position where he has to beg to keep his coach around either. These men have an entire year to decide what they want to do going forward and yours or my exhaustion with this story isn't going to change the idea that it's in both sides' best interest to use that time, especially with where the Wings are positioned relative to their future. If this year ends up being the last straw holding off an actual purposeful youth-movement rebuild, then Mike Babcock probably isn't the right coach for a team going through that. If this season works well and the team continues to transition its core while still relying on veterans, then Babs is absolutely the coach for that job.
At this point, I'm more interested in a Babcock extension just to quell the rumors than I am in making absolutely sure that Babcock will be the Red Wings' coach for the foreseeable future. That's not a good reason for me to want an extension signed and it's certainly not a good reason for Mike Babcock and Ken Holland to sign an extension right now.