It seems Mike Babcock is set to finally re-surface. Just not in the coaching realm one would ever imagine.
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Babcock, the future Hall of Fame coach with a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medals on his resume, will be named the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies next week.
It appeared as though Babcock had started into his redemption tour at the beginning of this season when he debuted as a panel analyst on NBC's studio coverage of the NHL. That first meaningful step toward his reaching his presumed end goal, which was to once again coach at the highest level, was really the first sign of life from the veteran bench boss since his dismissal from the head coaching position with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in November of 2019.
Babcock's place among the best, most respected coaches in the game took a hit in his time with the Leafs. After several seasons of progression, a power struggle ensued between himself and the new-look management team, eventually resulting in his first-ever dismissal. More consequential than that, stories of questionable coaching tactics were reported on shortly after his exit — including an incident involving Mitch Marner, where the coach clearly manipulated the then rookie forward, asking him to compare his work habits with other veterans and revealing the results to at least one player.
But what might be more detrimental to the prospects of Babcock coaching in the league again, however, are the stories of alleged mistreatment of players. Most outspoken on the subject was Johan Franzen, who called Babcock "the worst person" he's ever met based on his experience playing for him with the Detroit Red Wings. Franzen said Babcock was verbally abusive to both players and staff members during their time together in Detroit.
Babcock addressed the controversies that have tarnished his image in his first studio appearance on NBC, and also attempted to spin his side of the stories in an exclusive with The Athletic.
Beyond these issues, one other thing to consider with Babcock's apparent decision to enter the USports coaching ranks are the financial ramifications. Following this season, Babcock is still owed 25 percent of the total value tied to the richest coaching contract in NHL history, or what's believed to be in the neighbourhood of $10 million. Babcock would surrender that money if he took another job in the NHL, but it seems there is no such "right of offset" rule in place when transitioning University coaching space.
That means Babcock can preserve his maximum earning potential while knocking off some coaching rust at a lower level, setting the stage for a return in the 2023-24 NHL season.
Babcock has both played and coached at the University level in his hockey career. He played four seasons at the University of McGill and held the head coaching position at the University of Lethbridge for one year before reaching the NHL.
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