Detroit Red Wings: Mike Babcock’s latest attempt to save face

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock clears the air after being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, well, he attempts to anyway.

The Mike Babcock experience with Toronto Maple Leafs abruptly ended when it appeared the team quit on the former Stanley Cup-winning coach.  The star-studded lineup posted a lackluster 9-10-4 record to start the 2019 season, ultimately signaling the end for the former long-time Detroit Red Wings’ bench boss.

If you recall, Babcock had been a splashy-hire for the Toronto Maple Leafs after the wealthy organization opted to open the checkbook for his services.  The Leafs lured the veteran coach away from the Detroit Red Wings, where he’d spent ten years, with an offer no one could refuse, an eight-year deal worth $50 million.

Babcock has had tremendous success coaching both at the NHL level and Internationally with Team Canada.  The 57-year old is still due a whopping $5.87 million per season from the Leafs until June of 2023.  It’s apparent Babcock still has a desire to coach; this past offseason Babcock did an interview for the Washington Capitals head coaching vacancy, but the team chose to hire Peter Laviolette instead.

Recently, the former Detroit Red Wings head coach tried to clear the air regarding his most recent firing along with what happened in Detroit with Johan Franzen.

First, this is what he told The Athletic about the situation in Toronto.

"“So Mitch was in my office. We were talking about work ethic. I asked him where he ranked on the scale. And that was no problem, that was just a private thing. It was a good meeting, Mitch left. But then I was meeting, I’m pretty sure it was with (Tyler) Bozak, afterward. Bozy was an important part of our team. What I ended up doing — and I made a big-time mistake, I knew as soon as I did it — when we were talking about competing and I said, ‘Well look where Mitch ranks it.’“Well, as soon as I did that, and he saw the list, I knew that I had made a major mistake. After the meeting with Bozak, I went right into the dressing room. I grabbed Mitch and said, ‘Mitch, this is what I did. I screwed you here.’’’"

The initial story suggested that Babcock asked Mitch Marner, a rookie at the time, to list out who he thought the hardest working players on the team from top to bottom in private.  It was said that later Babcock centered Marner out and read the list in front of the team.  Things like this won’t play well in a professional locker room, and Babcock should know better.

In my opinion, it was a lazy effort to motivate the team.  To me, I believe Babcock is trying to save face and, after failing to land the Washington Capitals gig, felt the need to speak.

Here was Marner’s take on the situation after Babcock had been fired per TSN;

"I was lucky enough that the guys that were there with me, none of them took it to heart and they knew it wasn’t up to me [to make the list],” Marner said. “But it’s so long ago now“It was huge for a first-year guy,” Marner said. “When I heard about [what Babcock did], I didn’t really know what to think. But I was lucky enough to have that first-year group with me and our team was very tight and very well-knit together. That was a lucky situation. But it’s over with now; it’s out of my head.”"

In the article by the Athletic, Babcock also decided to address the Johan Franzen stories that surfaced after his firing in Toronto.  A more in-depth recollection of the Franzen story can be seen here.

Still, it’s been alleged by various people, two being Johan Franzen himself, along with Chris Chelios, that the former head coach would regularly verbally attack Franzen even after the forward had been trying to work through multiple concussions.

Here is what Babcock had to say on the subject.

"“Can you imagine having someone say that about you when you have been involved in mental health as much as I have? Now, I’ve reached out to (Franzen). That’s not going to make anything go away.“It doesn’t matter what I perceive. When you’re talking about this kind of thing, if the person — whether it’s a co-worker, your spouse, your student — if they think that’s the environment, that’s what they’re feeling. Now, I sure wish I would have known about that then. And I could have done something about that. Besides apologize, there’s not much I can do about that now. But does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely.’’"

To me, this is Babcock trying to apologize but not really admitting anything that he’s claiming to be sorry for.  To me, it’s a backhanded attempt to apologize so that when he goes into his next interview hoping to strike a new job, he can say he’s addressed the issues and put them in the past.

You can believe who’d you like; I don’t believe this is a genuine apology rather a calculated public statement.

I’ll leave you with a few things to ponder.

Don’t forget this is the same Mike Babcock that tried to scratch Chris Chelios when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings in the outdoor game in Chicago between the Hawks and Wings.  Not only is Chicago Chelios’ hometown, but it’s also the franchise he’d previously captained from 1995 until he was traded to Detroit in 1999.

Babcock also decided that it would be a good idea to leave Mike Modano in the press box for the regular season’s final game, the last season of his career. Nonetheless, as a healthy scratch leaving him one game shy of an extraordinary feat, the 1,500 career game plateau.

If that’s not enough, Babcock did a similar thing with forward Jason Spezza in Toronto.  After signing the veteran centerman to a minimum salary not only allow Spezza an opportunity to have one last kick at the can in hopes of winning a Stanley Cup, Toronto is home for Spezza.

Spezza purchased nearly his yearly salary worth of tickets for family and friends to see him Leafs’ debut only to be a healthy scratch in Toronto’s home opener.  Pathetic.

Next. Michael Rasmussen has opportunity to stick in lineup. dark

I take Babcock’s recent comments with a grain of salt.  What is your take on the situation?