Note: Chris has posted a rebuttal to Twig's opinion on Babcock.
My obligatory “Fire Babcock” post is long overdue. Seems to me the fan base is pretty divided on this issue, so the point of this is to educate the pro-Babs people on what we, the pro-Fire fans, are seeing game after game. A rebuttal post is in the works, so you’ll get to read both sides of the argument.
Before I get started, a quick disclaimer: I still think Babcock is a good coach, I just think he’s going through the motions and maybe a change would do both of us some good. Like when Ville Leino was traded away, then set rookie playoff scoring records with a new team. The talent was always there, but a change of scenery was required to get him back on track. I do think Babcock is still good, but I will argue after the jump that he’s just going through the motions at this point.
More after the jump:
History: I was happy when Modano signed in 2010. Despite his age, I liked his speed and experience. I thought we were going to have one of the best third lines in hockey that year. A freak wrist injury killed his season, but he was fresh when the playoffs started. Unfortunately, he was a healthy scratch most of the time, though I don’t recall him being in the lineup for any losses. After clawing back from a 0-3 hole, the hard working Mike Modano was scratched again in favor of guys who were either hurt, lazy or both.
More History: Mike Commodore wasn’t an all-star defenseman by any means, but he played well for us. Ericsson in particular was a better player with Commie at his side, but he rarely got to play. The conventional wisdom was that the team wanted to give Kindl more time to develop and didn’t want him to sit in favor of a veteran. Ok, sure. And then Huskins played last night and Kindl was a scratch.
I bring these two instances up because they were both cases of Detroit not playing their best lineup at any given time. What’s worse is these are two instances of free agents coming to Detroit only to be shunned in favor of less deserving players. Commodore asked Babcock before signing if his past comments about him were water under the bridge and if he’d get a fair shake. Babcock said yes, then scratched him. Ken Holland wined and dined Modano so hard you’d think he was trying to get laid. He signed, then he was scratched. You think players making life-changing decisions about where to sign won’t take those instances into consideration?
Lines: Mike Babcock does not build the team he coaches. Ultimately, that falls in the lap of Ken Holland, so if you’re not happy with the players we signed last summer, it’s not really Babcock’s fault. He can influence Holland one way or the other, but it’s the GM who offers the contracts. Babcock also doesn’t decide who gets called up from or sent down to Grand Rapids. But the guys that are assigned to the Red Wings are his responsibility. That means if Dan Cleary is coasting around on a top line and Tomas Tatar is barely able to break a sweat with his bottom 6 minutes, that’s Mike Babcock saying he thinks this team has a better chance of winning if Cleary plays more than Tatar. He’s wrong and you know it.
Icing Screw Ups: Detroit tends to roll four lines as much as they can. So we’ll usually see the top line, the second line, the third line and then the fourth line on a fairly decent rotation. But then this will happen: The third line runs a team ragged with pressure. They get a few chances, but don’t convert. Finally, in desperation, they ice the puck. So now Detroit has the chance to put a rested line of Zetterberg, Brunner and whoever else against a tired team, right? Wrong. It’s not their turn. Fourth line goes out there, does practically nothing and the chance is squandered. That’s why I say Babcock is just going through the motions. It’s as if he’s not thinking anymore.
Wait, who was on the ice!?: I’m totally cool with rewarding young guys with playing time that they’ve earned, but let it make sense. Andersson hadn’t done much other than turn the puck over a few times against the Kings, yet there he was on the ice in the final minute of regulation. Why? Gaining experience? Can’t he gain that by defending a two goal lead? Then work his way up to defending one goal leads? Baby steps, maybe?
And why was Emmerton our extra skater against the ducks? I was impressed by his guts on the PK, but being down a goal is different from being up a goal. No way he should have been out there. Not to say that Emmerton cost us that empty net goal, but he didn’t exactly help prevent it.
But Injuries!: Yes, Detroit is banged up. But are they so broken that Emmerton was our only option for an extra skater? The skaters on the ice trying to salvage a point against the Ducks were Zetterberg, Brunner, Tatar, Kronwall, Cleary and Emmerton. What, NOW we don’t want to give Andersson any experience? After collecting his first NHL goal and assist in the same game, factoring into the only goals we got in the game, NOW he sits and watches?
Do you see now why Mike Babcock makes me crazy? Either Cleary or Emmerton should have been sitting in favor of Andersson. Nyquist should have been playing in favor of whoever was left of the two. We needed to score and our best possible player combinations were not out there.
So now what? Well, two out of the last four cups have been won by teams that fired their coach mid-season. It doesn’t always work, of course. Some coaches are fired because they couldn’t miracle their crappy teams into the playoffs. In some cases, though, good teams are not being utilized to their full potential. I think Detroit falls into that category. I believe a coaching change would wake up some of the guys on this team that think their spots are guaranteed. I think a new coach would be fresh enough to know when to put the top line out against a tired defense. I think a new coach turns this team into a contender.
Who?: And that’s where I fall flat. My pick would be Renney since he’s already here, but like some have pointed out, our special teams, which he’s in charge of, have been garbage. Fair point. But could it also be that he’s trying to organize players that Babcock has lost control of? Last year I was hoping we’d get Hitchcock, but the Blues took him. Turned their season around, too.
I know he was great in 2008. The team itself had a great year, too and we the fans had one hell of an offseason. But when does the good will of 2008’s success end? I want to win like that again and I just don’t see that happening with our current leadership.
@Brent Michael Sechler Actually Babs has been to the finals 3 times and won two cups.. He won with the ducks and then went back to back with us in 08/09
I couldn't disagree more. I have no idea why the flying f**k cleary is still in the lineup, but otherwise it's all down to effort. No coach can command effort more than babcock. The players are big boys, they aren't going to be scared into effort by a coaching change.
My biggest gripe is him playing Cleary over Tatar. But I can see why Babs is reluctant to switch up lines. With all of these injuries it is hard to build chemistry. None of our D really know who they are paired with on any given night and the forwards seem to have new mates every five seconds, as soon as some chemistry comes out, bam, down with injury. Cleary has some chemistry with the top guys but not the skill to go with it anymore. On playing guys like Emmerton and Anderson in big situations I can only say this. If either of those situations worked out, Babs looks like a genius and Emmerton and Anderson immediately gain value. trade bait value.
We have to get all our guys healthy again, and figure out lines that have a good chemistry together. Putting Z and Brunner together was a no-brainer because of how well they meshed together. We've had literally no time this season where every one of our players was healthy, which means constantly jumbled lines; no consistency. It's hard to work up a gameplan with your linemates if they're changing every week because someone else got hurt. Chemistry isn't something you can replicate; it just has to be there.
I get your frustration. I feel it as well. After our loss to Nashville last season I was ready to see everyone fired and traded. But after settling down, reality hit me. We do have a super talented team, but we are not the only team in the league with that level of talent. Hell Vancouver is arguably the most talented team over the last few seasons. Where has that got them.. The only thing I really want to get through after all this is, I really don't want to see the fan base flip out if he is canned and we still don't win. Be thankful for what we do have, every year we have a chance to win a Cup. How many fanbases wish they had what we do. The grass is not always greener right??
I've said this year..in MY opinion, will have a LOT to do with coaching... I agree for sure, golfing n May is BS for our team, hands down. I've also said we HAVE to get bottom guys much more consistent, and productive. Sometimes it seems they just fly around mucking pucks, until they change, and hope the top liners got enuf rest.. (Sarcasm here) lol
Brent, I don't expect my team to win every year. However, a team that had the best forward, best defenseman and a solid goalie should have been able to do better than golf in May the last 3 seasons. and no team in the league has a dynasty right now. including ours, unfortunately. i do think we have the talent to get there, though. it's just not being used properly. -Twig
Obviously one Stanley cup victory does not secure a coaches job for life. Here is a question for you.. How many current coaches in the NHL have lead a team to the finals? Let alone won a championship? Not every coach has that capability. I truly think we have a gem in Babcock. Don't forget he has won a gold in the olympics. Now obviously he needs to continue to win, but in a salary cap era can you expect teams to win Cups every year? Be realistic, the Redwings are still the last team to win back to back. Name another team that has anything close to a dynasty right now? Also, another thing to take into consideration is the lack of continuity in his assistants. Seems like they are playing a game of musical chairs...
I agree with most of the points for both sides. One thing, that I have no clue about so don't flame me for it, that I dislike is that our team will NOT be physical. We brought in Jordin Tootoo, one of the most physical, and hated guys in the NHL, I don't know if Babcock is telling him to play a different style, or what, but he seems much more tame since the beginning of the season.
I may be alone in this, but aside from last game, the Wings have been...dare I say - boring to watch. Lack of scoring, lack of physicality, lack of caring at all.
Oh I understand. I'm really just referring to our struggles this year. Also, with the end of last season, I really wouldn't put a lot of the blame on Babs either, (for our post-season struggles, anyway). The injury bug hit us fairly late, especially with Datsyuk needing his surgery and Cleary playing on a bad knee for weeks. It just kinda sucked the life out of the team, and Nashville being as hot as they were definitely didn't help (it simply fueled my hatred/resented respect for Pekka Rinne). I won't rebut anything else you've said though. I fairly agree with it.
I read it. I agree 100%. I again LOVE Babs, but as I said, "MAYBE" his time has come to an end, and its time for a change.. I've been saying that for 2 years actually, but I usually get laughed at. Lol my point is that we keep losing for the same reasons, and I get tired of hearing "we don't have Nick". MOVE on, we have no choice. Step up guys!! I agree.. But how can we not miss Hudler? Contract year or not, he produced. So we let him go, and signed Sammy.. Oooook. Lol
I hear you, Nate, but this isn't a reaction from this year alone. This is a post 3 years in the making. -Twig
In my honest opinion, I really think our biggest problem right now is missing Helm. He's arguably the best 3rd line center in the league. Without him, it forces Abby up to the 3rd line to take his place, and he's not a 3rd line center. He's a 4th line grinder. It takes him out of his comfort zone and throws the entire bottom 6 chemistry in disarray. And with so many people missing up top as well, (Mule, Bert, Sammy for a while), it also forces Babs to throw guys up on the top lines when they really shouldn't be. I'll admit, he's made some questionable choices, (Abby on the first line for a game? Really?), but as far as roster changes go, he's doing the best with what he has. I'm really curious to see what the team can do with our players at 100% and not missing 12 guys at all times.
Just curious, how many of you saying you disagree actually read past the headline? I ask in the article how long Babcock gets to ride that 2008 Stanley Cup win and a few of you are quick to point out that Babs won a cup with us. So does that cup from 4 years ago give him job security for life? or does he, the coach of Datsyuk and Zetterberg, eventually have to show results again? This team had Lidstrom for the previous 3 season, yet started the playoffs on the road 2 of those 3 times. unacceptable. -Twig
Aaron, as mentioned in the article, we have injuries, yes. But we're still good enough to beat any team in the west with our current lineup. Yet, we don't. Geordie, in this salary cap era, I don't think there are many teams out there that don't have a lot of depth guys or at least young guns that don't count much against the cap. Just the way it is. -Twig
I'm going with Scott Cullen's assessment here. The only gripe I have with MB right now has to do with playing #11. Sit Cleary and the beer's on me, Babs.
Cullen's first quarter winners:
JACK ADAMS AWARD Winner: Mike Babcock, Detroit Runners-up: Barry Trotz, Nashville; Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Comment: Always an award that could have half a dozen or more deserving nominees, Babcock gets the early nod for steering the Red Wings through the post-Lidstrom era with a shaky -- and injured -- defence corps, yet the Wings persevere. Trotz gets mentioned annually and Pekka Rinne's strong play might be more reason for Nashville's success, but they're succeeding with minimal production from Shea Weber (or any forwards) after Ryan Suter left as a free agent. Perhaps there should be some Ewing Theory applied to the big ticket free agents signed by Minnesota, since the Devils haven't missed a beat without Zach Parise, but DeBoer deserves credit for keeping the Devils on track. Battling early injuries and dancing around goaltender usage, Vancouver's Alain Vigneault should be among those nominated too, so it pains me to have him among honourable mentions. Toronto's Randy Carlyle and Montreal's Michel Therrien could be in the discussion too, as both Toronto and Montreal are exceeding preseason expectations.
We have 3 world class players, and the rest, are not contributing. I will say we ARE riddled with injuries, but when we lose, we lose over and over again for the SAME reasons. Either we don't start on time, or its our D! WTF?? FIX IT!! I LOVE Babs, but has his time come to an end? I still firmly believe we will right the ship, but I have no choice but to question some of our signings..50 point Hudler left for more $$. Shit, Cleary Abby, Miller Eaves, and Sammy won't equal 50 points..
Ya obviously Dats, Z are some of the bsat players in the world. But when we take a step back and look at Miller, Eaves, Emmerton, Huskins, Quincy, Abdelkader and guys like that we see a lack of talent. Most nhl teams only have about 3 of those guys. We have 2 decent lines of offence and that is about it. Babs can't do it all.
No disrespect intended with the posts. When it comes to player personnel decisions again we don't get to see everything. Babcock and his staff do. He makes decisions based on what he knows. There could be a plethora of reasons going into them. Players mindset, work ethic, how much the staff trusts them, and opportunities for the players to gain experience. The man has been to two finals and won a championship. Mr. Illitch and Holland trust him with the most talented team in the NHL, I feel we should do the same until its decided else wise.
We can't just base it off a few mediocre years and a rough start to the season... Yeah his head may be out of it right now but like always, he's trying to figure shit out. Almost every game where they lose, Babs will make a comment in an interview about how something needs to change (i.e PP and PK) and yet, the next game, these changes seem to work. The only thing I have not liked is the constant line changes; we need to build chemistry. Remember Zetts and Houdini in 08? We used to have solid performance lines that worked together well. We somewhat do now, but not as steady and consistent as it was before
Geordie, Holland isn't innocent, as I explain in the post, but I wouldn't say Babs has "nothing to work with." -Twig
I'll chime in here with my support for this article. Mike Babcock's problems have compounded on Mike Babcock's problems, and what we have are great your players being overseasoned in the AHL (mostly KH), brought up to the NHL and playing their butts off while showcasing their talent, and then being buried into a checking role on the 4th line. Cleary and Abby are useless in the Top 6. Sometimes having an energy player to go get the puck is a very good thing partnered with two skill forwards. Cleary, however, has no energy. In my opinion, his last 3 seasons have been evidence he doesn't have a role in the NHL anymore. YET, he gets to coast and coast and coast and coast and whiff and coast and whiff on a line and PP unit with some of the best players in the game. I'm not going to repeat Ryan's post, but the guy has players he believes can do no wrong and other he believes can do no right. Unfortunately, his problems have compounded to the point where he is mostly wrong, and it is holding us back like a boat trying to drive with its anchor on bottom.
To those saying "we're not in the locker room so we don't know", you are right. I can only guess. But that doesn't explain why the 4th line is out there after an icing. It doesn't explain why certain players are on the ice at important times. Just something to consider. -Twig
Get this guy a Coor's ^ Seriously though, as much as we as fans think we can watch the TV and accurately analyze and dissect the situation we actually don't have a clue. Important conversations dealing with personnel management occur behind closed doors and we will never be privy to all the information that the coaching staff has. The only man I'd trust more behind the bench is Scotty B. While we may like to think we know these coaches and players like friends and family, the Red Wings are still a business and they run a well oiled machine. If someone wasn't doing their job they'd be fired but that's not the case.
Simple cold hard fact here fellow fans. None of us are in the locker room, or on the bench. We are not in anyway qualified to debate Babcock's job security. In Holland we must trust.
@Reddy I think that coaching changes pretty consistently send a message to the players- no one is safe, so you'd better earn your keep. You don't want to end up in a hole like Calgary or Dallas? Well then you'd better show you want to be here.
@Reddy so you're cool with the 4th line being out there to score after an icing instead of the top line? and with benching better players when we need to win?
@Tnhgeno I've had this same thought. He has made some good passes and is playing hard, but there are not big hits, no fighting, and nothing really controversial. That is why we brought him on board. I am sure Babs doesn't want too many penalties but still.
@Tnhgeno hmmm, not sure on tootoo being more tame. i'll watch him more closely the next few, though.
@ThroatShot Well if today's practice is any indication, he might be starting the learning process. He's split Z and Pav up again; Z on the first line with Brunner and Fil, Dats on the second line with Sammy and Tatar. Which bumps Cleary back down to the third line.
@ThroatShot Ditching Babcock over what are frankly line change opinions would stick us exactly where Calgary and Dallas are right now, the gutter. Sending a message that noone is safe does precisely nothing when half the team is injured and the other half are call-ups. This would be overreaction at it's finest, and of course, it's not going to happen.
@Twig No, and I'm not happy Huds was played instead of Modano in game 7, but those are hardly fire-able offences.
@OhBallsItsJebus That's fine and dandy, but we are 15/48 through the season. Honestly not thrilled with Sammy on the team at all let alone taking a Top 6 spot, but let's ignore that. The point was made in the post, and I think Cleary (even if moving down) this season illustrates it- Babcock regularly does not put the best team on the ice in the best arrangement.
@Reddy alone they're not. but have you heard the phrase "death by a thousand paper cuts" before?
@ThroatShot Oh I'm sure he's satisfied working for them and not unhappy at all, but I'm sure there's a part of him that will always want to be here with us no matter where he works. I think if there comes a point where he and Holland are both off contracts at the same time, if Holland doesn't extend his with us, or is not offered it, Stevie might make the jump.
@OhBallsItsJebus I believe Steve made the move right after KH and Nill received their last contract extension and cited it as proof he could not move up with the Wings organization. I think everyone *hopes* he comes back after a few years elsewhere, but I don't think he's really unhappy on vacation in Tampa.
@ThroatShot Well I will definitely hold you to your word once I do pass my verdict. And, correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think Holland was still under contract with the Wings organization when Yzerman made the decision to become a GM. And Stevie has already pretty much said that once he gets a few years of experience under his belt, he wants to come back and GM the Wings. But I do agree, Holland has been very complacent with our drafting and rosters over the last few seasons; no big moves made one way or another. (The biggest move in recent memory was our 1st round pick for Quincey, who definitely isn't living up to that level of hype). He needs to make a big splash with the roster pretty soon or his ass will be on the line as well.
@OhBallsItsJebus Oh, and I know we have had plenty of injury problems, but the last 3-4 seasons have been enough time to assess the full potential of the guys on the roster now and those we had in GR. You're withholding judgment until next year, but I started passing it a couple seasons ago. The only difference between you and I is that I have already said what you are saying and passed the point of judgment.
@OhBallsItsJebus I like the lines you listed there too, and believe me, I don't not blame Ken Holland. I think he became complacent after years of success and relied too heavily on things that can't be relied upon anymore (late round picks and "we're the Red Wings"). In my opinion, we should have retired Holland/Nill and promoted Yzerman to GM before he left and acquired a new coach. I said it then, said it since then, and am saying it now.
@ThroatShot I get what you're saying, I really do. And I can relate. The past two years or so, watching their production steadily decline has been disheartening. I never really thought to put it on Babcock with so many players leaving the organization at once. (Lidstrom, Stuart, Rufalski, Chelios, Drapes, and Ozzy all within the last 4 years). It looks to me like the organization never anticipated/prepared for these holes to spring up at once, and for that I would lay more blame on Kenny Holland than Babs. KH decides which players play in GR and which ones stay up with us, and for that Babcock can only put together the pieces that he's given. But I will give it to you, some of the things he's done in the last 15 games haven't made much sense. (i.e., Abby on the 1st line, Cleary on the 1st/2nd line, or really playing at all before his eventual first goal, Eaves being scratched, Kindl being benched when he's finally showing progress). I guess in my mind I just can't squarely put the blame on his head until I've seen what the team can do at full potential (once we finally get all of our injured guys back). But my big judgment will definitely come next season, seeing which lines get put together at the beginning of the season. And I really hope to see Tatar as a full-time player by then, he's more than proved this season thus far that he can handle it. (I do remember seeing that same article about him, by the way. It was on MLive if I'm not mistaken). But over the offseason, I'd like to see them use their buyouts to at least get rid of Cleary, and maybe Sammy as well, if he continues to not produce for us. Let Eaves take Cleary's place, and move Bert to the 3rd line. I know Mule is basically the definition of inconsistent, but as long as we get him for the price that we do, it doesn't make sense to get rid of him without getting anything in return. It would be amazing to see a lineup of Franzen - Z - Brunner, Nyquist/Flip - Dats - Tatar, Eaves - Helm - Bert, Tootoo - Abby - Miller/Emmerton. Inject some of the youth into the mix so that the guys who are not producing/readying to retire can transition without leaving us with gaping holes to fill. Sorry for the rant, but basically my big judgment on Babcock won't be made until we have all healthy players. While he definitely needs to make better game-time decisions, he can only do as much with the roster as he's given/is available to him, unfortunately.
@OhBallsItsJebus I think I would disagree with the idea that we can't decide who the best team is. I think Bertuzzi proved last season he didn't belong on a top line anymore, producing something to the tune of 14 goals with 70+ games on Pavel's wing. I'd like to think Pavel the Magician could bounce 14 goals in per season off of some part of my body, so let's call 15 goals the handicap for simply playing with Pav. Cleary, injuries or not, has literally been useless for the past few seasons. Abby has shown that he does not have the skill to score at the NHL level, so his only contribution is hitting with body checks and hitting with punches. Eaves, as you point out, does have not only defensive and skating ability, but he has also shown he can step into the Top 6 due to injuries and fit in not too poorly. Franzen has the ability but lacks the motivation. He shows he can in about 1/3 of the games and shows he won't in the other 2/3. Tatar and Nyquist have been great in Grand Rapids. Nyquist came up last season and was basically 1 PPG in the Top 6 and useless as a checker. If we are going to consistently draft undersized, skill-player Europeans, why does Babcock seem to insist on using them on checking lines? I wish I could find the link, but I read an interview with Tatar during the lockout where he said that if he didn't get significant time and a significant role in the next NHL season (now, this one), he would likely take the standing offer he has to play in the KHL next year. I really, really, really hope that doesn't happen, but how are you going to feel about Babcock if Tatar bailed next year because he was unsatisfied with his (limited) experience while called up? We need to develop our young, talented players and not stunt their development when they actually get a call-up. The NHL is a customer service organization. The owners work for the fans who pay their bills, the GMs work for the owners, and the coaches work for the GMs/owners. I think Babcock is holding this team back, so in my mind, I wonder what the last few years, this year, and next year might be like if he weren't. Everyone outside of Detroit thinks we are on the decline, and they may well be right. I don't need Mike Babcock turning our organization into another Flames (fighting for the playoffs every year and early exits) by holding up this team to suit his devious personnel schemes to favor his favorites who underperform. Tatar (7 GP) has more points than Abby, Cleary, and Sammy combined (33 GP), and he has half as many minutes per game as they average. There's no reason for him to have wasted so many games with them in the top lines and us at the bottom. I may not be in the locker room or in the practices, but any knowledgeable fan can watch the game and understand that his personnel practices don't make sense.
@ThroatShot The big problem is that we can't determine what the "best team" is, because 1/3 of them are still off the roster with injuries. The only player not playing who I think does deserve minutes, especially with how long he was out and how much he busts his ass, is Eaves. If he would just scratch Cleary and play Eaves in his place, I'd be satisfied for the time being, till the injured guys get back.