Mike Babcock is in a position most NHL head coaches would envy. With one year remaining on his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, he is coming off of his second gold medal as Team Canada's head coach at the Olympics and was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award last season. With the threat of losing him, the Red Wings' backs are against the wall a bit on getting a new contract done.
Coaches have been so easily discarded over the years, so when one finds himself in the position Babcock is, there's no reason not to make the most of it.
The two sides have yet to come to an agreement, however, aside form both parties agreeing that the contract talks will have to be completed before the season or after. There won't be any negotiations during to prevent distractions for both Babcock and the players. So the clock is ticking.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com caught up with Babcock Thursday to get a gauge on where things stand as of now:
"[Red Wings GM] Ken Holland and I have a great relationship,” Babcock said. “I have a great owner. I like Detroit. I have no concern at all with my situation. We'll find a way to get a deal worked out. But it's not like I'm in any rush. If it happens, it happens, if not, we'll get it done at the end of the year."
These might be the most definitive statements Babcock has made on the record about his contract to date. It sounds mostly like something will get done between him and the Red Wings before his deal expires, even if it's after the season.
The sooner Detroit can get Babcock under contract the better, though. If they can't get the deal wrapped up this summer, it sounds like Babcock will give them the first crack to bring him back at the end of the season. But there would be a long line of teams waiting to hand over a sizable contract, you'd have to think.
Also, in the position Babcock is in, he has pretty much all of the leverage. The Red Wings are sure to have a Plan B, perhaps AHL coach Jeff Blashill, who is a rising star in the coaching ranks, but none of those options are likely better than Babcock at this point in time. The coach has no reason to settle for a penny less than he feels he's worth (hint: it's a lot).
LeBrun also got Holland's side of things and the attractiveness of Babcock's resume to other teams is not lost on the general manager.
"The guy's got an opportunity of a lifetime,” Holland said. "He's an unrestricted free agent. He's 52 years of age. His stock isn't going to get any higher. He's coming off his second Olympic gold. He was finalist for coach of the year. People feel the job he did last year with our team was as good as he's done here in a number of years."
There's a lot of mutual respect between the organization and coach. If Babcock says something will get worked out, it sounds pretty probable that it will. If not, he would become one of the most sought-after free-agent head coaches in recent memory.
In 10 seasons behind the bench in Detroit, Babcock has 415 wins, 198 losses and 91 overtime losses. The club has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice in his tenure, winning the top prize in 2007-08. Somewhat shockingly, Babcock has only been a Jack Adams Award finalist twice and has not yet won.