Rabid Habs

Babcockmania Running Wild in Toronto

Leafs' Mike Babcock

May 20, 2015 was an historical day for the National Hockey League.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed a new head coach to an 8 year, 50 million dollar contract!

Hockey fans around the world instantly looked at each other with that “50 MILLIONS?” look in their eyes. Yes sir! The Maple Leafs needed to renew hope amongst its legion of fans, and since the team failed to attract any impact player that could become a hero/leader to them, they decided to make a splash with a new head coach; Mike Babcock.

The news of his arrival in Toronto unleashed a wave of optimism for the fans, and will keep them talking about “their” Leafs for at least 8 years. It certainly brought optimism back to the fans, but what else did it bring for all parties involved?

First things first, it had to bring a smile to Mike Babcock’s face when he received this offer. While being one of the best paid coaches in the league over the last few years (over 2 million per year), he will now receive an average of 6.25 million per year for the next 8 years. It is simply a no brainer for anybody earning less than that amount. It brings financial security to his entire family.

It brings a coach with a proven track record to a Maple Leafs team that has had good coaches in the past but that failed to develop an identity around those coaches as the players didn’t buy into to the concepts brought forward by the coaches. Babcock has won Gold at the World Junior Championship for Canada in 1997. He coached in the American Hockey League with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks from 2000 to 2002. During that span, his team, the AHL affiliate of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Detroit Red Wings, had a 74-59-20-7 record and qualified for the playoffs each seasons. In 2002-2003, he became coach of the Anaheim Ducks and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. In 2004, he led Canada to the Gold Medal at the World Championship. In 2005, he became head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, where he shined brightly until May 19, 2015. During his tenure in Detroit, he led his team to 10 consecutive playoff appearances, won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and made it to the Finals in 2009, and won Olympic Gold medals in 2010 and 2014 for Canada. In short, it brings a tremendous pedigree to the Maple Leafs.

It brings stability to an organization that has struggled, to put it mildly, to be successful on the ice for a long time. By signing Babcock for 8 years, the team made a very clear statement not only to the fans, but more importantly to the players; he’s our guy, and he’s the boss!

The length of the contract and the amount attached to it leaves no doubt that any player refusing to play the system put in place by the coaching team will be dealt with swiftly.

Mike Babcock said he wanted a challenge and got one, which explains the duration of the contract. With such a nice hockey resume, he could not take the chance to simply sign a 4 year deal to become successful with a team such as the Maple Leafs. He realized that it would take 3 or 4 years of poorer results to reach his goals and build a successful team for the remainder of his contract. There are no guarantees that he will reach those goals or bring a Stanley Cup to Toronto within the next 8 years, but the fan base is now hopeful that it will happen.

In the end, what Mike Babcock will bring to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is an identity and credibility that have been lacking for a long time. Always known as a moneymaking team off the ice with no real aspiration to win on the ice, the Maple Leafs made a statement and are putting all other teams on notice that they are now interested in winning on the ice as well. It will take time and money, and fans will need to be patient before a positive outcome, but now a plan is in place!

The only question left unanswered just may be “Watcha gonna do when Babcockmania runs wild on you?