EDMONTON – News that the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved Randy Carlyle of his coaching duties today stoked the rumor mill fires at Rexall Place, where the Red Wings are prepared to face-off against the Oilers tonight.
Local and national media were interested in Mike Babcock’s take on the Toronto situation and whether or not it affects his coaching future.
“Aren’t we playing Edmonton tonight?” Babcock asked after fielding questions for several minutes about the Maple Leafs’ position.
“It doesn’t affect anything I do,” added Babcock, who is in the final season of his contract with the Wings’ organization. “We’ve got a game here to play. I’m real happy with where I’m at. We’ve talked about this lots this year. It doesn’t affect anything I do.”
Babcock, who is in his 10th season with the Red Wings, and is the NHL’s longest tenured coach with one team, has been among the top names that surfaces each time a coach is let go this season. Besides Toronto, head coaches in Edmonton, New Jersey and Ottawa have been dismissed.
Members of the fraternity are not blind to that fact that coaches are hired to be fired, and that message isn’t missed by Babcock, who feels fortunate to be where he’s at following coaching stints in Anaheim, Cincinnati, Spokane, Lethbridge and Moose Jaw.
“I’ve been real lucky,” he said. “I’ve went from (former Ducks GM) Bryan Murray, who’s a real good man. I’ve worked for Ken Holland, who’s a real good man in the National Hockey League. I got fired from Moose Jaw (in 1993) when I was a young coach. It’s a blow to your ego when it happens for sure. You just think you can get the job done and do the best you can.
“I get up every morning and I do the best I can and sleep good at night.”
Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, who grew up in suburban Toronto, is certain that the media machine will fan the flames until a suitable replacement for Carlyle is found, which may take a while.
“Some of the guys were saying that might keep Toronto media going for a few months here with all that hype,” Smith said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens but I know in this room guys don’t really care about (the rumors), I don’t think Babs looks at it too much right now as we’re just trying to win.
“It’s not like everybody’s a fool. Everybody knows about it and knows about the situation. I don’t think anybody in this room is putting their minds towards it or thinking about it at all.”
Babcock said he’s not worried about the future as this current Red Wings’ team is challenging enough, which drives him competitively.
“It’s a hard, hard league. It’s hard to win in. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s way harder to win now than it was before. All the teams are the same. You can come in the standings and be a million points apart between the two of you and the other team is just as good as you and you’re scared to death each and every night. That’s part of the challenge.
“I’m real fortunate. We have an unbelievable leadership group here with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and (Niklas) Kronwall and as a coach that’s a real advantage.”