Mike Babcock named Toronto Maple Leafs head coach
Published Wednesday, May 20, 2015 2:09PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 20, 2015 7:06PM EDT
The Toronto Maple Leafs have landed the most coveted free agent coach on the market, signing two-time Olympic gold medallist and Stanley Cup champion Mike Babcock to a reported eight-year deal.
Babcock will become the highest-paid coach in NHL history with a reported salary of $6.25 million, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.
Sources say Mike Babcock has been hired by the Maple Leafs. Mammoth 8 yr contract believed to be around $50 million.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 20, 2015
The Maple Leafs confirmed the signing on their Twitter account Wednesday.
The Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings were also thought to be in the running for Babcock's services, but a rumoured deal with the Sabres on Tuesday never came to fruition.
Babcock, 52, becomes the 30th head coach in Leafs history.
Leafs landed 'the big whale'
The Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings were also thought to be in the running for Babcock's services, but a rumoured deal with the Sabres on Tuesday never came to fruition. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, gave credit to Leafs President Brendan Shanahan for winning the bidding war and signing Babcock.
"I'm proud of Shanny, I'm proud that he dreamt big," Leiweke said. "He got the big whale."
The Ontario-born coach started his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks in 2002, where he ran the team for two seasons before landing a job in Detroit in 2005. Babcock coached 10 seasons in Motown and won a Stanley Cup in 2009. He was also behind the bench for Stanley Cup final appearances in Anaheim and Detroit.
Babcock arrives in Toronto with a coaching record of 527 wins, 285 losses, 19 ties and 119 overtime losses in 950 games behind the bench. He also has 82 wins in 144 career playoff games coached.
During his time with the Red Wings, Babcock compiled a 458-223-105 regular season record and became the franchise leader in wins and games coached. He led his squad to the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons in Detroit. The Red Wings also won the Presidents' Trophy twice as the league's top team under Babcock.
He is 17th all-time in regular season wins and ninth in playoff wins for an NHL coach, with four conference final appearances and two Jack Adams Trophy nominations as coach of the year.
Twitter was a buzz with Babcock talk Wednesday afternoon as rumours swirled that Detroit and Buffalo had pulled out of the sweepstakes, leaving the Leafs as the only remaining contender. Speculation ramped up when several individuals found a publicly-listed flight plan for the Leafs' private jet, which indicated a planned landing and take-off in Detroit later in the evening.
Babcock will bring some much-needed clout to the Maple Leafs organization, after a nightmare season that saw the team post its one of its worst records ever and finish fourth-last in the league. The Leafs fired coach Randy Carlyle in January, then fell into a death spiral under interim coach Peter Horachek, winning just nine of their final 42 games.
Horachek was fired along with general manager Dave Nonis and most of the scouting department last month, following the conclusion of the regular season. Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said at the time that rebuilding the team will "take as long as it takes."
"The challenge here in Toronto is not to come up with the plan. The challenge in Toronto is to stick with it," Shanahan said at his end-of-season press conference on Apr. 13.
Babcock's eight-year contract will give him plenty of job security through what are expected to be some tough years ahead in Toronto.
Babcock will also become the third highest-paid individual in the Maple Leafs dressing room, behind star winger Phil Kessel ($8 million per year) and captain Dion Phaneuf ($7 million per year).
Shanahan and Babcock have known each other for years, dating back to their time together in Detroit. Babcock was Shanahan's coach during the 2005-06 season.
With Babcock now in the fold, Shanahan is expected to turn his attention to filling the vacant general manager position in Toronto.