Red Wings' Mike Babcock is one of the game's top coaches. He has the Stanley Cup ring and Olympic gold medals to prove his ability.
He is primed to chase another Stanley Cup title, but it might be his last with Detroit. He is in the final year of his contract and his future in Detroit is uncertain. He may be back or may move on to a new challenge.
Either way, he will be in demand after he helps guide the Red Wings to another championship this spring. The Detroit roster has warts, but if there's one coach capable of getting the most out of any lineup, it's Babcock.
He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2013-14 but might be doing a better job this season.
"I'd like to be the best in my generation," Babcock told SportsNet.ca. "I like grinding it out. I like learning new things. I like the challenge of being able to do it year after year. There are a whole bunch of people who come in here and have success for one year and then they go. Being able to do it year after year, that drives me."
He's doing it this season by taking a relatively young group and successfully meshing it with a core group of veterans. As a result, the Red Wings have extended their NHL record of playoff appearances to 24 seasons, which matches the fourth-longest streak in NHL history (Montreal Canadiens, 1971-94).
Unlike last season when Gustav Nyquist was the only player with 20 goals prior to the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Red Wings have four players with at least 20 in 2014-15.
Young forwards Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening each established a career high in goals and points.
The Red Wings rank among the top 10 in goals-against per game among teams in the playoffs. They were among the top three in the league on the power play, which featured Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nyquist, Abdelkader and Tatar.
Detroit's veteran players, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, have evolved with Babcock. They've been accepting of their coach's plan for the younger players, and that has played a big part in the success.
The biggest decision required by Babcock in the postseason will likely be choosing his starting goaltender. He said Saturday that he's already made up his mind on his Game 1 starter.
“I’ve already decided but what I’ll do is share that with you on Monday,” Babcock said following the Wings' 2-0 win at Carolina on Saturday.
But will it be rookie Petr Mrazek or young veteran Jimmy Howard? They have almost identical statistics but Howard has almost twice as many starts. The fact the Red Wings ranked among the top 10 in the league in shots-against-per-game bodes well for the goalie getting the nod.
Asked if he had decided on his playoff goalie before or after Mrazek stopped 35 shots against the Hurricanes, Babcock said, “No. I pretty much knew what I was doing. Every day in our business confirms something or gets you to change your mind. Obviously we’ll talk about that on Monday.”
As has been the case in previous seasons, the Red Wings dealt with their share of adversity, but with Babcock making the decisions, that adversity will morph into championship strength.
Bill Roose | DetroitRedWings.com Managing Editor contributed to this report.