Thumbs up…so far

January 13, 2006

Darren Eliot at NHL.Com has a piece today focusing on the coaches who have made a difference in their teams’ success. As we’ve stated here before, Mike Babcock definitely falls into that category.  Eliot agrees.

First year Red Wings coach Mike Babcock came into “Hockeytown” and immediately infused energy that the team had lacked in recent seasons. The Wings continue to ride that fast start atop the Conference standings.

Energy the team had lacked the previous seasons?  Previous POST seasons, maybe.  But looking at Detroit’s record on January 13th the last four (played) years, the results have been similarly consistent under two previous regimes.

  • 05/06      29 wins
  • 03/04      27 wins
  • 02/03      25 wins
  • 01/02      32 wins

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.

But as he well knows, the proof will be in the playoff pudding.  Babcock has demonstrated a knack for juggling lines effectively, at the right times.  His regrouping of Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Shanahan last night was a prime example.  Not only did he put a scoring line together capable of putting up big points, but he recognized that all three were in ruts and, hopefully, brought them back to life.

Tests that await him are:

  • getting more out of Robert Lang
  • Streamlining a defensive corps that will have to change when Nik Kronwall comes back
  • Winning the Central Division and the West without wearing down the veterans (particularly Chelios and Schneider)
  • Dealing with 9 Wings playing two weeks of high-stress, physically demanding hockey in Turin
  • Deciding on a number 1 goalie.  I think he already has. The hard part will be to make it public (is that necessary?) and to get enough games under Legace’s belt and keep Osgood fresh at the same time.
  • And the big one:  getting this team to play like it did last night in the playoffs with ferocity on the forecheck, a killer instinct in the third period and defensive responsibility. 

So, yeah, we like Mike.  But we’ll like him a lot better when he’s got a cigar in his mouth, riding a convoy through the streets of Detroit in June.

More from Eliot

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