Enthralled with Cup win, Wings give Babcock extension

Updated: June 11, 2008, 7:42 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Mike Babcock's new contract allows the oldest of his three children to graduate from the same high school she's attending now.

And if all goes well with the Detroit Red Wings the next three years, Babcock's younger two kids likely will get the same opportunity.

Mike Babcock
AP Photo/Paul SancyaMike Babcock, usually seen serious and not smiling behind the bench, shows another side after his three-year deal with the Red Wings was announced.

"Ideally, that's what will happen," Babcock said during Wednesday's news conference, after signing a three-year deal worth about $4.5 million.

A week after helping bring the Stanley Cup back to Detroit, the Red Wings announced Babcock was returning to their bench.

Babcock and general manager Ken Holland shook hands and agreed on parts of the contract prior to the first round of the playoffs, then both decided to postpone completing it until the playoffs were over.

"We would've been here if we lost to Nashville," Holland said, referring to Detroit's first postseason opponent.

Even though Babcock helped the Red Wings win their first Cup since 2002, his bargaining power was limited.

"For me, there was no negotiation," he said. "My family told me they weren't leaving and if I was, I was going on my own.

"I didn't want to go anywhere, anyway."

With the kind of talent he has to work with and a family happily living in suburban Detroit, it's easy to understand why Babcock told the team he wouldn't exercise his option to be a free agent of sorts next month.

And, it's not difficult to figure out why Detroit didn't want him to leave.

Babcock is the first NHL coach to win 50 games in three straight regular seasons and has won 231 games in his first five seasons.

He has won an NHL-most 43 playoff games -- 15 more than any other coach -- since 2003, when he led the Anaheim Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals in his first year as a coach in the league, according to STATS.

In NHL history, only Bob Hartley has won more playoff games and only Dave Tippett won more regular-season games in their first five seasons.

Detroit beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last week in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fourth time since 1997 and 11th time in franchise history.

The Red Wings led the NHL in points in two of Babcock's three seasons and tied for the most in his second season, which ended with the Western Conference finals.

"We've done a lot of winning under Mike's watch," Holland said.

Babcock is a finalist for the Adams Award, which goes to the coach recognized as the best in the NHL.

He doesn't take all the credit, deflecting it to team owner Mike Ilitch and the Holland-led front office.

"They care about hockey, they like players, they get you players," Babcock said. "For a coach, your best friend is the people that acquire the players.

"The better players you have, the better coach you are."

Babcock will have to find a new assistant coach to replace Todd McLellan, who was hired as head coach of the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.

The Red Wings hired Babcock away from Anaheim to replace Dave Lewis, who was not offered a new contract when NHL play resumed three years ago following the lockout.

Players got too cozy playing for Lewis, a former Red Wing and a longtime assistant, but it was clear that wouldn't be possible under Babcock.

During a morning skate before a preseason game three years ago, the Red Wings were simply gliding around the ice and Babcock didn't care for their pace.

"Let's Go!" Babcock screamed.

Instantly, the players started skating faster. Their days of coasting and relying on their résumés was over.

In three seasons, though, Babcock has had to yell less, because many of his players are as dedicated as they are talented and understand their coach is simply prodding them to be their best.

"Mike's got a tremendous amount of passion, a tremendous work ethic and he loves the game," Holland said. "I think he's found that fine line between really pushing our players and at the same time having the relationship where he can talk to the players."

Defenseman Brian Rafalski, who was at Joe Louis Arena shortly before Babcock's news conference, said Babcock found a good balance with players last season.

"He's always intensely focused and if he thinks we're too loose, he'll tighten things up in a practice," Rafalski said. "But after a loss, he would try to relieve the pressure on us.

"Overall, he does a very good job of laying things out for us by breaking down what he wants us to do and what other teams are trying to do. He makes it a lot easier for us on the ice."

Babcock's coaching style has proven to be a good fit for the Red Wings, who have learned to drive to the net, compete for pucks in the corners and finish checks all over the ice.

"In the three years since the lockout, we've rebuilt our team while winning a ton of games and I don't think we're going away," he said. "The core players that we're going to have back are going to give us an opportunity to be successful not just year, but in the years to come."

Babcock said his younger children will be entering the 10th and ninth grades when his newly signed contract expires, leading to a chuckle and joke from his boss.

"We barely got this one done and Mike is already negotiating the next one," Holland said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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