DETROIT – On Thursday, Mike Babcock denied multiple reports that a contract extension for the Red Wings’ coach is “imminent”.
“I don’t even know what imminent means,” Babcock joked, following Thursday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
“Guys that’s like a fantasy world,” Babcock added. “(General manager) Ken Holland and I when we talked before the year, we agreed we wouldn’t do this during the year. Our team is going good. Our team is playing good. I like the way we’re playing. We don’t need any distractions.
“I’m happy here. I like the general manager. They treat me good. I don’t know what else I can tell you, but as far as negotiations between Mike Babcock and Ken Holland there is none.”
According to a report in Thursday’s Windsor (Ont.) Star, numerous NHL sources familiar with the negotiations said an extension “could be imminent, perhaps even a holiday gift for the man who’s guided Canada to the last two Olympic gold medals.”
That report sent a larger-than-usual media contingent into the Red Wings’ locker room on an off-day seeking the coach’s response. For nearly five minutes, Babcock answered questions about a negotiation that hasn’t transpired since he and Holland agreed to an in-season moratorium before opening night in October.
“That’s what we decided,” Babcock said. “But like I said, I’m with Ken all the time. We can talk all the time, we haven’t about this, period. It’s not like I’m knocking on his office door. We’re fine. He likes winning and I like winning. We’re both happy.”
The all-time leading coach in franchise wins, Babcock said the reports are erroneous.
“They can write whatever they want," he said. "You guys get paid to make stuff up I guess. But the facts? There’s got to be something to do with the facts in the media somewhere doesn’t there? You’d think.
"I’m telling you the truth right here nothing has happened."
Last Saturday, Babcock celebrated his 500th career victory after the Red Wings posted a 3-2 comeback win over the New York Rangers. He is the second-fastest coach to reach 500 wins, doing so in 895 games. His now has 501 career wins – his overall record is 501-266-111-19 – which ranks 17th best among all-time league coaches.
Babcock, who is in his 10th season behind the Wings’ bench, is one of the most successful coaches in club history. In that span, he’s never missed the Stanley Cup playoffs and coached the Wings to the Cup championship in 2008. His Wings’ teams have compiled a 432-204-97 mark.
However, last summer, a lot was made of the team’s possible demise because of the uncertain health to key players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss, and the unpredictable progression of young stars like Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.
The notion that the Wings had zero chance to qualify for a 24th straight playoff berth this spring were pretty much evaporated in the first quarter of the season.
The job that Babcock has done with this team has been remarkable. After 29 games, the Red Wings have 40 points and sit atop of the Eastern Conference, just three points behind Anaheim for the league lead. They have top 10 special teams with the No. 3 rated penalty kill and No. 10 power play, and four lines that have all contributed offensively.
“You are what you are and you find a way to win with what you have,” Babcock said. “That’s what you do. You do it each and every year and you reinvent yourself each and every year. That’s what this team has done. I’m very impressed with this team. Very impressed.”
Regardless of how happy he says he is, or how well the team performs, Babcock said stop reading into things about his future.
“If you think I’m working harder this year because I’m in the last year of my contract it makes no difference,” he said. “I grind. That’s what I do. I’m a professional grinder. I love winning.”
When a reporter asked, then why put off the inevitable and sign a new deal, Babcock said, “Because there’s nothing to sign.”
“I’m 100 percent comfortable,” he added. “I’m going to do the best I can and I think things will work out. I’m a big believer in that. … We’ll work it out.”