DETROIT – With 10 days left before the curtain rises on the 2014-15 season, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is reaching his self-imposed deadline to stop negotiations on a new contract.
If a deal isn’t reached by Oct. 9 – when the Red Wings are set to open the season against the Boston Bruins – it seems both sides will wait until after the season.
“I don’t think it’s going to be my final year here. If it is, it is,” Babcock said following Monday’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’ve tried to live my whole life in the present, so what happened yesterday doesn’t matter, what we’re doing today does matter and we’ll get on with it tomorrow. So I’m going to do the same. I’ll get up every day and try as hard as I can as I always have, and go home and love my family and come back the next day and do the same.”
Babcock, who is currently the longest-serving NHL coach with an club, has said he wants to stay in Detroit and general manager Ken Holland has indicated that the team wants him back. Babcock and Holland have had some discussions during training camp, but nothing new has materialized on a new extension.
“My relationship with my general manager is such that the grass isn’t greener on the other side,” Babcock said. “So I understand that totally, so I imagine that will get worked out.”
Entering his 10th season with the Red Wings, the 51-year-old Babcock is the only coach honored in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Triple Gold Club for leading Team Canada to Olympic gold (twice) and an IIHF World Championship, and the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup.
Last season, he reached the top of the Red Wings’ all-time coaching wins list, passing both Scotty Bowman (410) and Jack Adams (413) in regular-season victories. Babcock is sixth among active coaches with an overall record of 484-260-19-105 in 12 NHL seasons.
Since 2005-06, Babcock’s first season in Detroit, the Red Wings have more regular-season (415) and playoff (64) wins than any team in the NHL.
“He just makes things happen,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Regardless who’s in the lineup and who’s not in the lineup he makes sure everyone is prepared. I think last year was proof of that if anything. With all the injuries we had we were able to find a way through it. He did a great job of making sure the young guys that came up they really felt they were a big part of the team. Everyone was pulling in the right direction. That says a lot about him and him as a coach.”
Rumors began swirling shortly after last season that other NHL clubs were interesting in plucking Babcock from the Red Wings if his current deal were to expire.
But if a deal is completed in 10 days, the players don’t feel it will be a distraction in the locker room.
“The players in here, our job is to go out and perform on the ice,” Kronwall said. “His job as a coach is to get us prepared and do the things he needs to do and we have all the info that we need. So far it’s been good. We haven’t seen a change from previous years and I don’t think there will a change to that whatsoever.”
Babcock seemed indifferent when asked if he preferred to have a deal in place before Oct. 9.
“That doesn’t even matter,” he said. “I’m going to do everything within my power to maximize the group, whether I’m in my last year or first year. It doesn’t affect my life whatsoever. It would make way more difference to me if I was just starting in the business and I was concerned about feeding my family. I’m not.”