The End of the Mike Babcock Era: A Red Wings Fan's Thoughts
The man who has been at the helm of the Detroit Red Wings for the last ten years is gone. He left for both a division and historical rival team. I suppose I should be bitter. I should be screaming something about Babcock's ego or how loyalty means nothing anymore. Maybe I should be sad that the guy a lot of people think is the best coach in the league doesn't want to have anything to do with a team that he didn't think could even make the playoffs last July 5th.
I'm not though. I'm none of those things. I'm not happy either. I mean, Detroit did just lose their winningest coach ever. If the Wings were in a position to still be as dominant as I want them to be every year, he wouldn't be gone. I guess what I'm feeling about this whole situation is relieved that it's over now and hopeful.
We're going to get caught up in a lot of misunderstandings about whether Mike Babcock is the best ever or if he's an overblown product of having once enjoyed the most-dominant roster assembled in the analytics era. It's hard not to jump between idol and garbage. It's hard to lay praise or criticism without seeming like it's coming on too thick.
I'll say this: in looking at the last ten years for the Red Wings, there's not a coach I want to have been in charge of them more than Babcock... at least I don't think there is. The problem is that I don't know. I think the Red Wings had a three year period in there where they absolutely should have won multiple cups. I think they've been good enough in at least seven of those ten years to win the Stanley Cup. I guess Mike Babcock has to be listed among the reasons they only captured the one.
But I also wouldn't trade the 2008 cup for the chance at knowing somebody else could have done it better. I think that's a losing bet. If I were confident he were the primary reason for ONLY having one cup, I'd be happy to see him go instead of bittersweet.
I'm ready to move on though. I'm not sure the Red Wings will be immediately better going forward. There's plenty of reason to think the opposite. As I wrote last week, I think there's a chance that Babcock, as good a coach as he is, might not be the right coach for what the Red Wings need to speed their path back to cup contention. It would also be foolish to pretend like this is a completely new thing. I can remember growing concerns about Babcock being the right fit dating back to the 2012 first round loss to Nashville. I'm sure many readers will remember having the same feelings going farther back than that even.
At the end of the day, I'm ready to move on. I'd have been perfectly ok keeping Babcock in Detroit, but his return would also have been bittersweet. Knowing this makes it much easier to let go. Babcock left for business and for personal reasons. He made the decision in the timeframe he said he was going to make it. Despite the media circus surrounding recent events, Babcock kept his word and did what I'd expect just about anybody to do (since faulting a guy for taking that huge a deal just doesn't sit right with me).
However, as a fan of the Red Wings, I also have my own business and personal desires; these desires no longer align with Mike Babcock. I want to see the Red Wings win and Mike Babcock doesn't. As much as I can possibly thank Babs for doing his best for us over this last decade and as much as I can hope for personal health and happiness for his family, I can't wish him professionally well in Toronto or anywhere else; that would be dishonest.
So Mr. Babcock, thank you for your tireless pursuit of excellence in your time with Detroit. I'll always remember that time fondly. Going forward? Get fucked, Leafs coach.