Mar 22, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Detroit Red Wings wins 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins: Would Mike Babcock Be A Good Fit Behind The Bench?


With Dan Bylsma reportedly as good as gone, various names have been spoken and written as potential fits behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bench for the 2014-15 season.

While acknowledging the sheer comedy factor that accompanies any mention of Mike Keenan, the most intriguing coach connected to the Penguins is current Detroit Red Wings boss Mike Babcock.

Babcock still has one year left on his contract with the Red Wings, a franchise for whom he’s worked since 2005. While in Detroit, the 51-year-old Ontario native has guided the club to nine playoff berths, five division titles, two Stanley Cup final appearances and a championship in 2008. If the Penguins wanted to poach him, they’d have to get permission from the Wings to buy out the final year of his deal.

Why would Babcock leave a place that has treated him so well? It’s anyone’s guess if a move to Pittsburgh is feasible, but it’s instructive to know that he and Red Wings general manager Ken Holland both agreed to put off any talks of a contract extension after Detroit was eliminated from the playoffs last month.

It’s doubtful a coach of Babcock’s status would enter the next season as a “lame duck,” although that’s how Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman handled his late-career stint with Detroit – with a series of one-year contracts. However, one doesn’t imagine Babcock is anywhere close to putting his whistle away.

Why could Babcock work well with the Penguins? For one, his famously abrasive style would be a stark departure from Bylsma’s more amicable approach. Much like Bylsma represented a departure from the blustery Michel Therrien in 2009, Babcock would push the personality meter in a sterner direction.

Also, with reports surfacing that Sidney Crosby grew increasingly frustrated with Bylsma this season, bringing in the coach who helped Crosby win two Olympic gold medals would be a nod to the Pittsburgh captain.

On the other hand, Crosby has just played under Babcock for a few weeks combined; would familiarity breed contempt if the two were forced to coexist on a long-term basis? Babcock has been known to wear on his stars, as his relationships with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk reportedly run hot and cold.

But maybe that business-like atmosphere is just what this Penguins team needs to reach the playoffs heights they previously attained under Therrien and Bylsma.

Tags: Dan Bylsma Mike Babcock Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Vinnie Vega

    What possible reason would Babcock have for leaving Detroit? The wings have made the playoffs for 23 consecutive years and the have one of the best front offices in the NHL. Good Boss+good scouts+good players=happy coach.

    • Matt Gajtka

      I would agree with you but the stories out of Detroit on the Wings’ “getaway day” were weird. Didn’t seem like he was that eager to talk about extending his stay, and it was the same from Ken Holland.

  • Skip Carlsbaugh

    Babcocks not good fit. Its still SOFT hockey. Make no mistake about it. No standing up for team mates etc. See the Wings whopping SEVEN yes that’s right SEVEN fighting majors during the regular season and is always the lowest in the league every year. Talk about a limp wristed pansy! Makes bylsma look like conaan the barbarian even though the pens were near the bottom in fighting majors, they still had what was it, like 3 or 4 times that many. Babcocks glory days are behind him and his great defensive squad is no more. He needs to stay where he is at, thank you very much.

    • Matt Gajtka

      Didn’t know you could tell how tough a team was by counting the fighting majors. That certainly makes things easier.

      • Skip Carlsbaugh

        Well now you know. Looking at the entire leagues stats, its pretty easy trend to read and correlates pretty much directly.
        Tough guys with swagger fight. Just the way it is. Show me a soft team that has a lot of fighting majors? That’s what I thought….
        Nobody sticking up for malkin and Crosby are why they took beatings and played like dog dung through the playoffs and took pretty good beatings during portions of regular season, moreso than ever in last few seasons.
        You don’t have to like it, but it is what it is.

        • Matt Gajtka

          Sorry but I don’t buy it. You can be tough and not fight. Being tough is playing hard along the wall, controlling the front of the net, and making a difficult play with a hit sure to come.

    • Cecil Dir

      I must agree. The redwings are completely spineless. Also worth mentioning, of those 7 fights skip, the participants from the redwings lost every one of those fights!
      Another point worth mentioning is they have been the most boring team in the nhl to watch over the last 6 years or so. Watching them play is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

      • Matt Gajtka

        The Red Wings are boring to watch? I guess they are if you don’t like speed and skill.