Babcock, the coach of the Detroit Red Wings, already has seen former assistant Todd McLellan succeed as the coach of the San Jose Sharks. In fact, McLellan has knocked Babcock's Wings out of the last two Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals.
Now former Babcock assistant Paul MacLean is hoping to mirror McLellan's success by leading the Ottawa Senators, starting with his debut as an NHL coach Friday in, of all places, Joe Louis Arena.
"I'm a big believer that the best CEOs in the country … their people move on and do things," Babcock said. "Some people stifle people and don't let them grow and there's no succession plan. I don't believe in that. I believe that not just for players, but for coaches, it speaks highly of your organization if people are growing and developing and moving on. I'm proud of it. I've got lots of guys who I've coached with who are coaches now. I'm proud of that fact. To me, that's what it's all about."
"Some people stifle people and don't let them grow and there's no succession plan. I don't believe in that. I believe that not just for players, but for coaches, it speaks highly of your organization if people are growing and developing and moving on. I'm proud of it. I've got lots of guys who I've coached with who are coaches now. I'm proud of that fact. To me, that's what it's all about." -- Mike Babcock
Babcock and MacLean then coached the Red Wings to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the 2008 Cup in six games. Now they're going to put all the experience and knowledge gained coaching together to the test against each other to open the 2011-12 season.
"I'm a big fan of Mac's," Babcock said. "I'm thankful for nine years that he put in with myself and my family in the Anaheim days and the Detroit days. We've been to three Stanley Cup Finals together, we've won a Stanley Cup, we've won tons of games in the League and lots of playoff games. Mac's going to go to Ottawa and do a real good job. During the game, we want to beat his butt -- but he'll want to win, too. I'm proud of him."
MacLean, who played 11 seasons in the NHL with three different teams before coaching, feels the same. He also hopes to duplicate McLellan's success and make it reflect well on Babcock and the Red Wings as an organization.
"It's pretty satisfying to get the opportunity to be a head coach in the National Hockey League," he said. "A lot of it has to do with being on a successful team and knowing what it takes to be successful in this League. Todd has done a great job in San Jose getting his team further and making it better and that's the challenge for me -- to do that here in Ottawa, as well."
His coaching style also has been an adjustment for the Senators, who not only have had to adapt to a new system, but also to a more rigorous conditioning program under MacLean.
"It's been probably the hardest camp I've had in a few years, so we've got our skating legs (under) us," veteran center Jason Spezza said. "He's been a great communicator so far. He's all business on the ice and he's a great communicator off the ice. He's brought some system stuff in, some little wrinkles they've used here in Detroit, too. Everybody plays the game basically the same way. It's just minor adjustments here and there that he's brought to us that we hope can help."
MacLean also brings one heck of a mustache with him to Ottawa, which always seems to find its way into the conversation when his name is mentioned. Even Babcock couldn't resist when asked about it Thursday -- shedding some light on the kind of friendship the two have built.
"I've seen some pictures and I think it's smaller, because he's down about 40 pounds, I think," Babcock said, smirking. "It used to be bigger when he was bigger … but that's quite the cookie duster, to say the least."