“I told if we just do it the Red Wing way we’re going to get in”
With Pavel Datsyuk out for weeks at a time and even months, no Henrik Zetterberg for the stretch run, no Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss, Jonathan Ericsson, etc for lengthy periods of time, Mike Babcock still got it done. It was almost unfair on Detroit’s part with all the injuries they sustained, including missing 5 centers at one point. However, you have to play with the cards you’re dealt as they say, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would be the first to tell you that.
With the organizational farm being purged for prospects to minimize the effects of the plague, Babcock all of a sudden had an inexperienced group of kids on his hands. That didn’t stop his strong influence. Kids like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, and more were taken under the coach’s wing, and the results speak for themselves.
With the kids playing like ten year veterans, it gave a glimpse of what the future could be like in Hockeytown, and that future looks sparkling. But with the Red Wings’ 22 year playoff streak on the line, it was a case of “what could you do for me now”, and these kids had a lot riding on their shoulders. The tradition of Red Wing past was on the line, and adversity was high. However, they all had the right man to lead them, and that was Mike Babcock.
In total, 9 players made their NHL debuts, the most since the early 90s for the franchise. Each, in their own way, contributed to the effort to make the postseason and extend the streak. There was some veteran influence with players that have been there, with guys like Daniel Alfredsson providing a sense of leadership, but when an influx of kids like this comes in, a team has to have to have the right bench boss to coach them, and that’s Mike Babcock.
Now, not taking anything away from Jon Cooper or Patrick Roy and their respective seasons, they did a tremendous job. Cooper led the Tampa Bay Lightning back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and logged 46 wins. This was without Steven Stamkos for a few months and with rising rookies like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Kilhorn. Amazing season for Cooper, his team, and GM Steve Yzerman, but the favorite appears to be the Red Wings’ former enemy Patrick Roy.
Roy, to say the least, had a pretty solid inaugural coaching season. The Avalanche were the 2nd worst team in the NHL last season and have been in the bottom three of the league the last few years. This season, they logged 52 wins and won the Central Division, beating out late-season slumping Chicago and St. Louis. With young talent like Matt Duchene, Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie along with a serious Vezina candidate in the form of Seymon Varlamov, Roy coached them into winners. He took them from worst to first, a rarity in the National Hockey League and a worthy accolade for coach of the year.
However, with all the challenges that these two coaches faced with their respective teams, they did not face the magnitude of adversity that Mike Babcock and his team faced this season. This writer may be biased as a Red Wings fan, but from the mangames lost and the type of talent that the Wings were missing all season with injuries that just kept coming and with kids being inserted into big roles with lines being juggled at will, it took a serious man behind the bench to keep the team stable. It was Mike Babcock.
Firmly believing that this was the best coaching that Babcock has ever done in his career, this writer believes that the winningest coach in Red Wings franchise history has a big time case for the 2014 Jack Adams award. Jon Cooper deserves tremendous consideration for his season with Tampa as does the bench boss in Colorado. Patrick Roy with the work he did in his first season with the Avalanche getting his team to believe that they could be winners deserves plenty of consideration, and this writer believes that he will end up winning the award based on his instant results in the long run. However, for a team to have 421 mangames lost and have leading players missing for tremendous amounts of time as the Red Wings did, it takes a serious calming influence of a coach to steady the team’s course with inexperienced players and missing talent. Mike Babcock was that influence, and that is why his case is very strong for this award.
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Quote and amount of mangames lost courtesy of Mlive.com
Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning players and team statistics courtesy of NHL.com
Featured Image Courtesy of Grantland.com