As preparations for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 hit high gear leading up to the start of the tournament Sept. 17 in Toronto, NHL.com looks at how the teams stand. Seven writers who will cover the two-week event at Air Canada Centre were asked to rank the teams from 1-8 in various categories. Today, we look at which team has the best coach.
There is one coach who has nothing to prove in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey 2016: Team Canada's Mike Babcock.
Babcock has done it all, winning at every level, including a Stanley Cup title in 2008 and a gold medal in each of the past two Olympics.
For that reason, Babcock, who is coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the runaway winner as the best among the eight World Cup of Hockey coaches, according to a panel of NHL.com voters. Babcock received all seven first-place votes and finished 19 voting points ahead of Team USA coach John Tortorella and Team North America coach Todd McLellan, who tied for second.
Babcock is the only coach in the IIHF's Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup championship, Olympic gold medal, World Championship gold medal), leading the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008, Canada to the Olympic gold medal in 2010 and 2014, and Canada to gold in the 2004 World Championship.
Also, Babcock is the second-fastest NHL coach to reach 500 wins, doing so in 895 games, 70 more than Scotty Bowman, the League's all-time victories leader (1,244).
Babcock's ability to alter his game plan depending on the skill set of the team he is coaching may be among his greatest assets. He proved that by tailoring a system to fit the all-star casts that populated the Canada rosters in each of the past two Olympics.
"Babcock has proven he can bring together a group of stars and meld them into a team for a short international tournament, under different circumstances," NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika said. "He did it on NHL-sized ice when he led Canada to gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and he did it on [international-size ] ice when he led Canada to gold again at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's detailed. He has a plan. He has the players' respect."
The World Cup of Hockey 2016 will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17-Oct. 1, on NHL-size ice and under League rules. Another factor in Babcock's favor is the familiarity he has with the players.
"No one is better prepared for handling this format, and Babcock has the advantage of having 13 players returning from the Sochi Olympics, perhaps allowing him to add new wrinkles to his system," said Arpon Basu, managing editor of LNH.com, the League's French-language website.
Babcock has surrounded himself with the most capable assistants available, building his own all-star coaching staff. Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks and Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins each has won the Stanley Cup as a coach, and are joined by reigning Jack Adams Award winner Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals and Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Team USA's Tortorella, who took over the Columbus Blue Jackets early last season, also has won the Stanley Cup, with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. He also has coached the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.
Team North America's McLellan, the coach of the Edmonton Oilers, has a reputation for being very good with young players, and that certainly will be beneficial to a team that will be made up of players 23 or younger from Canada and the United States.
The other coaches are Ralph Krueger for Team Europe, Lauri Marjamaki of Team Finland, Rikard Gronborg of Team Sweden, Oleg Znarok of Team Russia and Josef Jandac of Team Czech Republic.
TEAM CANADA - 56 points (7 first-place votes)
TEAM USA - 37 points
TEAM NORTH AMERICA - 37 points
TEAM EUROPE - 29 points
TEAM SWEDEN - 25 points
TEAM FINLAND - 18 points
TEAM RUSSIA - 15 points
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC - 8 points