It’s been over two weeks now since the Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock, but the fallout from his departure from the team continues. Obviously, the scandal surrounding then-rookie Mitch Marner made headlines, as has Babcock’s dealings with other former players, in particular his handling of veteran Johan Franzen during his time with the Detroit Red Wings.
No matter your feelings on Babcock as a coach and a person, it’s safe to say that he’s been the target of a bit of a smear campaign the past two weeks. The fact of the matter is though that he’s a very accomplished head coach both at the NHL and the international level and there are still a lot of people in the hockey world who have a large amount of respect for Babcock’s coaching abilities.
So… what happens next for Babs?
NHL insider Elliotte Friedman reports that there were rumours that Hockey Canada reached out to Babcock to gauge his interest in joining the team’s squad for the upcoming World Junior Championships, but the public backlash following his firing in Toronto proved too be too much for Hockey Canada.
Check out this tidbit from Friedman’s most recent 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet:
Maybe the most impossible question to answer is what Mike Babcock’s future will be. When he was fired, word was that at least two teams privately reached out to gauge his interest in coaching right away — only to be told that he preferred to take some time. I heard from people in Russia that there was KHL interest, either as a coach or a consultant. There were rumours he’d be offered a World Junior role (not as head coach, but in an advisory position) and/or the head job for the World Championships. Then came the avalanche, and now that’s all in doubt.
There is a wide, wide spectrum of debate on his particular situation. No one defends revealing Mitchell Marner’s “hard-working” list after promising not to, and his handling of Jason Spezza has no fans, but there are others who feel that if he is willing to evolve, he could coach again.
One of the things I’ve learned about some coaches is they’re almost two different people: the one at the rink, and the one away from it. Away from the rink, I saw first-hand how he dedicated time to people’s mental health. But that “two-person” approach no longer works, and is not a defence for anything that happens at your workplace.
One thing’s a guarantee though… Babcock will end up coaching another team at some point. He’s simply too accomplished for a desperate team to pass up on him. The question is… when and where?