Mike Babcock admits leaving the Detroit Red Wings following a successful 10-season run was a frightening proposition, but the challenge of coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished 15th in the Eastern Conference (30-44-8) last season and haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967, is one he's thrilled to accept.
"New is exciting," Babcock said in an article in the Toronto Sun on Sunday. "It scares the crap out of you, to be honest with you. And so, that gets you on your toes and gets you dialed in."
Babcock agreed to a reported eight-year, $50 million contract May 20 to coach the Maple Leafs. He led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his 10 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games the next year. He is the Red Wings' all-time leader with 458 wins, and is 527-285-119 with 19 ties in 12 seasons coaching the Anaheim Ducks and Red Wings.
In addition to Babcock, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan hired Lou Lamoriello as general manager July 23 and reshaped the hockey department and amateur and pro scouting departments. On July 1, leading scorer Phil Kessel was traded to the Penguins in a package that brought forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington, and first- and third-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft to Toronto.
"When I took the job with the Leafs, what I did in the past doesn't matter," Babcock said. "It mattered in terms of me getting the job, but now it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what we do from here on in. I'm responsible. Lou's responsible. [Shanahan is] responsible. Those are the people who are responsible. That's it. Now let's get this thing going in a way we can all be proud of."
At his introductory press conference, Babcock said there's pain coming and called Toronto's rebuilding process a "massive, massive challenge," but it's one he's ready to embrace with open arms.
"We're an Original Six franchise that doesn't hold our rightful place in the National Hockey League right now," Babcock said. "We will."