So is Babcock really a Coach of the Year Candidate?
The Detroit Red Wings are so used to being full of talent that the coach often is not given enough credit. With the changes in the roster this season, they are not as talented and deep as usual.
Let's figure out whether Babcock truly deserves the Jack Adams Award.
At the quarter mark, the Red Wings were 7-4-1.
Over the summer Nick Lidstrom retired and Brad Stuart headed to the West Coast. That alone was going to make Babcock’s job harder. They were unable to sign some of their main free-agent targets to soften the blow to the defense. They also failed to grab any of the big-name offensive free agents that were out there.
Once the season started, things quickly got worse. It is almost easier to list the players who have not missed a game than the ones who have. The team has had 30 players that have played in at least one game this season.
There are teams that go all season without needing that many players, and the Red Wings have hit that number so early in the season. The constant rotation of players in and out of the lineup has hindered their ability to have any consistency.
This has led to them to being minus-five in the goals department. They also have one of the worst power plays and penalty-killing units in the league.
Despite all of this, Babcock has led the team to a winning record.
Since the quarter mark, the team has lost four straight games and now sits at 7-6-3. It has dropped to ninth place in the Western Conference. It is difficult to consider a coaching award when the team does not reach the playoffs.
While the Red Wings do sit one game above .500, they have only beaten two teams ahead of them in the standings, Dallas and St Louis. They also have losses to Calgary and Columbus, two of the worst teams in the conference.
Injuries are a factor, but this team still has enough firepower to score. This has not happened though. Detroit ranks 17th in the league in goals per game. What makes matters worse is that it is 20th in goals allowed.
Their power play and penalty kill rank near the bottom of the league. They also have given up the most short-handed goals in league.
In truth, it is too early to even talk of such an award. Despite a quarter of the season being gone, in this shortened season, there have not been enough games. Instead, what would it take for Babcock to win it?
If the team can get healthy and secure a top four seed, then Babcock would definitely be in the running. With the offseason losses and abundance of injuries the team has suffered, finishing that high would be impressive.
Any lower seed would not win him the award. Not unless there were a long-term injury to one of the major players(—Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Damien Brunner, Niklas Kronwall or Jimmy Howard(—and obviously nobody wants to see that. However if they made the playoffs with such an injury then he would certainly be the leading candidate.
They key is winning. It does not matter how it does it, but the team really needs to start stacking some wins together. A coaches award for Babcock would be nice, but raising the Stanley Cup would be much better.