Mike Babcock has been a coach in the NHL since 2002, when he took over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Since then he has steadily climbed up the coaching hierarchy, and can currently lay claim to the title of the "best coach" in the NHL.
When Babcock first reached the peak of the NHL coaching pedestal with the Ducks, he quickly took them to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season. After a second season in Anaheim, he decided to join the Red Wings after the lockout, which wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
In his six seasons with the Wings, he boasts an impressive 304-126-62 record.
The Wings certainly have a talented roster but the league’s history is littered with talented teams that just could not get past that final hurdle and lay claim to the Cup. Babcock’s leadership, strategy and coaching style have helped this team return to the top of the league as they have won a Stanley Cup and played in a second final during his tenure.
A few of Babcock’s accomplishments:
— First coach to win 50 games in first four years with a new team and only the second to win 50 games four years a row
— Coached the Red Wings to their second and third highest win totals in franchise history
— Best road record over the past six seasons
— Best record among all current coaches since he joining the Red Wings in 2005-06
— Voted Coach of the Decade by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News
— In only eight seasons, he is already ninth in all-time playoff wins
— Tied for the fastest coach to reach 70 playoff wins
Babcock has a style that simply commands respect. Despite injuries, bumps along the road or poor losses, there is never any grumbling in the locker room.
The players have full faith and trust in him. How many coaches could sit their top goalie during a playoff series that was tied 2-2 and have nobody question him? Instead, the team rallied around his decision to bench Dominik Hasek and won the Stanley Cup with Chris Osgood guarding the net.
It takes guts to make such a call, especially with the most important series of the season on the brink. And yet Babcock made it and moved on.
Although he can get very angry, he maintains a remarkable level of calm most of the time. Players respond well when the coach doesn’t get too high or too low. In fact, if you watch him during a game, you are never certain if the team is winning or losing as his stoic, somber demeanor never seems to fluctuate.
The 2009-10 season was his best. The Red Wings were decimated by injuries all season and the team struggled for most of it. At one point, it appeared that their long streak of making the playoffs would be broken. He was able to rally the team and made the playoffs as the fifth seed. They beat the higher-seeded Phoenix Coyotes in the first round before falling to the San Jose Sharks.
Babcock is one that still strives to learn more. He isn’t afraid to get input from his players, other coaches, former players or anyone who can teach him something new.
This thirst for learning allows him to be adaptable to the changes that inevitably arrive in the NHL. It also helps keep him fresh as teams can grow tired of hearing the same things from the same coach for season after season.
With Babcock the teams knows that while he is pressing them to get better and work harder that he also holds himself to that same standard.
He has been able to deftly remodel the team. He once laid claim to one of the oldest teams in the league, with several all-time greats such as Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios and Hasek at his disposal.
Yet he has been able to withstand the retirement of these players while adding younger talent and yet still making the playoffs every year.
He has been able to slowly work younger players into the team and watched them grow. Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula have all excelled under Babcock’s watch. The team’s offensive stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have grown into super star players with Babcock’s help.
The team is in great hands with Babcock. He will be able to masterfully guide the team through the regular season and hopefully a deep playoff run.