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Another benchmark for Babcock

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
It's been a milestone week for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who Thursday earned his 400th NHL coaching victory. Saturday will mark his 700th game coached. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – Less than 40 hours after becoming the third-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 400 career wins, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will be behind the bench for another coaching milestone.

Babcock will be the 40th coach in league annals to coach 700 games when the Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks in a Saturday matinee at Joe Louis Arena. He joins the likes of Scotty Bowman and Jack Adams, who also reached the 700-game plateau and led the Red Wings to Stanley Cup titles.

“I think when you first come to the league you’re on a tryout, just like all of the players, you’re on a tryout and trying to survive,” said Babcock, who spent two seasons in Anaheim before moving to Detroit in 2005. “As you’ve seen, the National Hockey League eats up coaches. But it eats up a lot of people. I think it’s the greatest exposure of weakness in anything. … It’s just the way it is, and that’s what the best are supposed to do. I think survival of the fittest in some ways.”

And unlike the seven coaches who’ve been fired this season, it doesn’t hurt that Babcock has talented, world-class players like Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to count on.

“I feel very fortunate that I was able to get off to a good start in Anaheim and get my confidence,” Babcock said. “I think confidence is everything in this league if you’re going to be a head coach. If you get confidence I think you have a chance to make good decisions on a more consistent basis and be steady on the rudder, and therefore, have a chance to win year in and year out. To me that’s the measure.

“In order to do that though, that doesn’t happen without Nick Lidstrom, Hank, and Pav and Howie and these guys. You have to have good players, it doesn’t matter. You can’t win without good players in this league, it doesn’t matter what the coach does, he isn’t going to score any goals.”

Babcock ranks third among active NHL coaches with a .641 winning percentage in the regular-season. But he holds the best active coaching winning percentage (.625) in the playoffs, and his 70 playoff wins ties him for ninth-place with his friend and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.

In his seventh season in Detroit, Babcock has already re-written the Wings’ record book, amassing a 331-141-63 mark and his astonishing .678 winning percentage is better than those set by Tommy Ivan (.653), Bowman (.655) and Dave Lewis (.668).

While Babcock flirts with some impressive NHL company, he stands along as the only coach in the world to gain entry in the Triple Gold Club, guiding teams to the 2010 Olympic gold medal, 2008 Stanley Cup, and 2004 World Championships.

Babcock earned a college degree in physical education and did some post-graduate work in sports psychology. His education has provided him with a solid understanding of just how sports work and how complacency doesn’t.

“When you look at what you did in year one, or you look at what you did when you were involved in this championship, you can’t believe how dumb you were. But that’s the game, that’s the business,” Babcock said. “We do things different – a lot different – from year to year to year, just because you have to, because what you did before doesn’t win. You’ve got to come up with new ways, and new ways of selling and new ways of teaching, but in the end you need players.”

And the way Babcock sees it, retirement isn’t something that he’s ever considered. Plus, it would drive his family bonkers if he didn’t have somewhere to go each day.

“Well, I’m 48, you know my kids aren’t even out of school yet, for crying out loud, and my wife doesn’t like me that much, so what would a guy do? I’d drive her crazy,” Babcock said. “I’ve got to do something. I don’t know, I’ve never thought about (retirement) much. I’m employed by these guys until they fire me and I like being here and I’m going to work as hard as I can and try to do as much winning in the meantime.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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