Craig Remsburg column: Babcock deserves credit for coaching
Mike Babcock has a resume most pro hockey coaches can only dream about.
The Detroit Red Wings’ head coach for nine seasons, he has just set the NHL franchise’s record for career wins with 414.
Babcock took the Wings to the 2008 Stanley Stanley Cup championship, led Team Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014, and coached the 2004 IHS World Championship team.
He also guided two NHL teams to the Stanley Cup finals before losing: Detroit in 2008-09 and Anaheim (Calif.) in 2002-03.
For all his previous success behind the bench, however, Babcock may have turned in his best coaching performance this season.
The 50-year-old (he turns 51 on April 28) has somehow guided the injury-ravaged Wings to their NHL-best 23rd straight postseason appearance.
This despite the Wings suffering more than 400 man-games lost to injury and illness.
The team lost so many veterans, it’s a wonder the Wings were even in the hunt for a playoff berth, let alone earning a spot.
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, arguably the team’s two best players, sat out a considerable number of games due to injury.
So did Daniel Cleary, Stephen Weiss, Jonathon Erickson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelson.
That’s a lot of NHL experience Babcock didn’t have access to night-in and night-out. A lot of games, he didn’t know who would be able to lace up their skates to play.
Largely, he was “left” with seven players age 24 or less in the regular lineup, some playing in their first or second NHL seasons.
It got so bad some called the Wings the “Detroit Griffins” when so many players were being used from the team’s American Hockey League farm team.
Still, Babcock was able to take this young talent and make the Wings competitive.
When the Wings went through a scoring slump midway through the season, he got the players – even the young ones – to play defense first to keep each game close and give the team a chance to win.
The youngsters have also given the Wings some speed and energy, which no doubt helped the team down the stretch in its playoff bid.
The Wings might not get past the first playoff round, especially if Zetterberg is unable to come back and give the team a boost.
But Babcock deserves a ton of credit for the job he has done this season getting the Wings to where they are now.
He won’t likely earn NHL Coach of the Year honors. Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche will probably walk away with that award.
But Babcock should be considered, nevertheless.