Mike Babcock Leaves for Maple Leafs, Continues Trend of NHL Teams Getting Former Red Wings Coaches
Mike Babcock is just the highest profile in a long line of teams wanting former Red Wings bench bosses.
If there's one thing that the Mike Babcock hire to the Toronto Maple Leafs showed, it's this: NHL teams want Detroit Red Wings coaches. Babcock is just another in a line of people who have been behind the Detroit bench over the last decade that found themselves in NHL head coaching positions after their tenure in Detroit.
Todd McLellan was first brought to Detroit by Babcock when the latter first took the head coaching job for the Red Wings. McLellan had been head coach of the Houston Aeros in the AHL after they moved from the old IHL. In just the second season for Houston in the AHL, McLellan guided them to the Calder Cup. After being hired as an assistant by Babcock, McLellan spent three seasons in Detroit. The last of these three was the 2007-08 season when the Red Wings last won the Stanley Cup, as he departed that offseason for the head coaching gig with the San Jose Sharks.
Paul MacLean was actually a longer-tenured Babcock disciple, considering MacLean first joined Babcock in the NHL with the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. When Babcock took the Red Wings' head coaching job, he took MacLean with him in much the same way he's bringing Jim Hiller to the Toronto. MacLean coached in the IHL and the UHL before being an assistant in the NHL, and nearly a decade after Babcock first brought him on as an assistant, MacLean finally had an NHL head coaching gig in 2011 with the Ottawa Senators.
Bill Peters is the most recent example of a Babcock assistant coach leaving to take a head coaching position. Much like MacLean and McLellan, he worked his way up almost in a linear fashion. He started as an assistant with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL before taking a head coaching position at the University of Lethbridge of the CIS. Three seasons later, Peters moved back to Spokane, this time as the head coach. When the Chiefs won the 2008 Memorial Cup, Peters moved on to the AHL to become head coach of the Rockford Ice Hogs. When MacLean left for the Senators job, Babcock hired Peters to replace him. Peters was in Detroit until last offseason when the Carolina Hurricanes offered him their head coaching position.
All three former Detroit assistants have found varying levels of success with their new teams. They all started in the NHL as assistants to Mike Babcock before moving on to become head coaches. Despite guiding the Sharks through the years which earned the franchise the "chokers" label, McLellan did pretty well in the grand scheme of his tenure in San Jose. Three Pacific Division titles, three 50-win seasons, two Conference Final appearances and four 100-point seasons are still significant accomplishments, despite not capturing the Stanley Cup.
MacLean took over an Ottawa Senators team that had missed the playoffs twice in the previous three seasons and had not made it out of the first round since losing in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. He immediately delivered a postseason berth and was nominated as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. He returned in the shortened season still guided Ottawa to a playoff spot despite finishing fourth in the former Northeast Division. A second nomination actually won him the Jack Adams that season, and the Senators made it to the second round. But after missing the playoffs in 2013-14 and after treading water to start 2014-15, MacLean currently finds himself unemployed.
Peters has had just one season in Carolina so far, and it was a rough one. He took over a Hurricanes franchise that had not seen postseason hockey for five seasons, and Peters' first season made it six. Despite only having a short tenure to evaluate so far, Peters will be under much heavier scrutiny come next season.
The fact that all three of McLellan, MacLean and Peters are all Babcock disciples gives Babcock an impressive coaching legacy in the NHL. In this context, the circus that went into the Maple Leafs' hiring the former Red Wings bench boss shows what kind of an impact Babcock had as a head coach in Detroit. The success of the Red Wings made the people who worked for Babcock attractive to other NHL teams.
Now that same success has brought Babcock the richest head coaching contract in NHL history by a country mile. Some may wonder how much Babcock produced the Red Wings success, and how much the Red Wings' success fed the Babcock legend, but it's a symbiotic relationship for the coaches and the team.
The Red Wings of the last 24 seasons have plenty to hang their hat on from their on-ice accomplishments. Chalk up another bullet point for the legacy of the Detroit Red Wings of the new millennium, that of the coaching tree rooted in one Michael Babcock, Jr.