Babcock’s impact

January 3, 2006

I filled out a survey the other day for mid-season awards. When I got down to the Jack Adams trophy–coach of the year–I didn’t think too hard before choosing Tom Renney.  As the first coach in more than ten years to get a consistent effort out of the Rangers, it seems like a slam dunk.

But, under our nose, Babcock is doing something we haven’t seen since maybe the days of Jacques Demers.  He’s developing young talent at the NHL level.

Think about it.

Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Fischer have all thrived in Detroit.  But, don’t be naive enough to give credit to coaching.  Mike Keenan would have had trouble ruining them.  Those are just three hugely talented kids. 

I’m talking about the rest of the youth on the Wings roster, and how they’re flourishing this year. Lebda, Williams and Franzen are suddenly legitimate NHL players, not cap-era slugs playing 4 minutes/night.  These three are contributing.  In Lebda’s case, it was capitalizing on an unfortunate opportunity.

(Detnews, 29 Dec)

“He got a chance to play when a couple of guys went down and he’s taken advantage of it,” defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.

“He’s playing well with the puck, taking his time and not throwing it away. He makes smart plays with the puck. It’s great to see a young player do that.”

Lebda’s averaging more than 12 minutes a night.  Against the league’s top 16 teams, he is a +4.  And, as a rookie in a league where defensemen are having significant difficulty grasping a new set of rules, he has only ten penalty minutes.

Babcock has put him in a position to thrive.  Would Lewis or Scotty Bowman have done the same thing?  Lewis, probably, if Ken Holland told him to. 

Bowman? 

Ummm…no. Famous for his reliance on veteran Dmen, Lebda would never have seen the ice.  In their defense, neither previous Wing coach had to operate under a salary cap.

That’s the key, though.  We talk so much about highlighting management teams who have thrived in this cap era, but sometimes we’re forgetting the work that has to happen, as we say in the Navy, “on the deckplates.” 

Babcock is clearly teaching, as well as initiating and developing strategy.

You can’t even claim Jason Williams had been a disappointment to the Wings because I don’t think anyone ever really expected much from him.  A stop-gap when a regular went down.  Steady enough to get a little ice time, but never much.

Well, look at him now.  Manning the point on the power play (still a work in progress IMO), 34 points in 38 games, and 12 points (3rd on the team) in 13 games against the top 16.

(Mlive 6 Dec)

“Coach is just looking for guys to step up and make something happen,” Williams said. “No matter who he puts you out there with, you have to make sure you’re ready to go.”

Shanahan. Lang. Draper. Lidstrom. Schneider. Sameulsson.  Six players Babcock chose Williams ahead of in their only shootout this year. Asking if he would have been given that chance by anyone other than Babcock is unnecessary.

Perhaps Babcock’s most challenging project is Mark Mowers.  I’ll admit that of all the indecipherable babble that leaves my mouth watching Wings games, the most common phrase usually refers to Mark Mowers, and typically features a middle name his parents most certainly didn’t come up with.

Mike Babcock sees something in this kid though.

(3 Jan Freep)

Coach Mike Babcock had a lengthy conversation with Red Wings forward Mark Mowers during Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Afterward, Mowers said it was a “constructive” chat.

Babcock elaborated.

“I just said it’s great to catch him doing good things,” Babcock said. “That’s what you want.

“We expect him to set the work ethic in practice. We expect him to make great decisions at the line — in other words, establish a forecheck for us.”

Ken Holland knew something.  Maybe he saw it in Babcock’s Duck team in the mere four games it took them to sweep the Wings out of the playoffs in ’03.  The common theme is that the Wings needed discipline.

Ok.  Maybe they did, and do.  But, it’s starting to look to me like Holland realized that if the Wings were to succeed with half their payroll, they’d need a coach who can, and will, develop youth.

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7 Responses to “Babcock’s impact”

  1. 58Miles2Joe Says:

    “typically features a middle name his parents most certainly didn’t come up with”

    HAHAHA, me too ! He makes good decisions, and sometimes has dazzling moves,, but that *insert middle name here* can’t finish to save his life! Hopefully once he breaks the plain a time or two he’ll turn it up.

  2. iwocpo Says:

    Hey man. Good to see you over here. Mowers, until I read that article this morning, has been the one big mystery to me, as far as Babcock is concerned. I just have no idea what the guy is doing at the NHL level, at least for the Wings. Flippula seems to be a more logical choice for that roster slot, considering he can score AND forecheck. But, Babcock has pushed all the right buttons so far. He must see something in the guy.


  3. […] Babcock pulled Ozzie down by 1 with 1:35 left, a faceoff in the Wild end.  I admit, I remember thinking it seemed early.  But, hey…as we said yesterday, the coach has pushed a lot of the right buttons so far.  Some decisions may backfire.  That one seemed to. Move on. […]


  4. […] We’re not disputing Babcock’s influence on this Wing team. His impact can’t be disputed in a number of areas; particularly the care and feeding of the youngsters. […]


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