Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Lewis out, Babcock in?

David Naylor, of Canada's Globe and Mail, is reporting that the Wings are looking at replacing head coach Dave Lewis with Mike Babcock, the latest coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Both men had contracts that expired last week (30. June) and are currently unsigned. Babcock, however, has a one-year contract offer from new Anaheim GM Brian Burke and he has until tomorrow to take it, after giving himself a week to think about it. (UPDATE 7/7, 8:04 am: Mike Babcock turned down the Mighty Ducks' one-year offer, and rumor is that he has a multi-year deal with the Wings in place.) Babcock coached in the AHL (interestingly enough, he coached the Cincinatti Mighty Ducks, a former affiliate of the Wings, between 2000 and 2002. Jiri Fischer played for him in that time.) and WHL before coming to the NHL in 2002 to take the top spot with the Ducks. He then went on to ride the success of JS Giguere all the way to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, in the process handing the Wings one of their more embarrassing playoff eliminations in recent memory (4-game sweep, allowed just 6 goals). The Ducks took the Devils to 7 games but did not complete their Cinderella story. The next year, Anaheim fell to 12th in the Western Conference, despite the added services of Sergei Fedorov and Vaclav Prospel. Lewis has been with the Red Wings organization for 18 years, mostly as an assistant coach. He finally got the head coaching position with the retirement of Scotty Bowman in 2002. He had two successful regular season runs with the Wings, coaching them to 48 wins in both the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 season but disappointed many with his inability to get the team past the second round of the playoffs. I, for one, have never been a huge, huge fan of Dave Lewis. I think the Wings would have been better off listening to Bowman, who wanted his job taken by Barry Smith. While under Scotty, Dave coached the defensemen, a good fit because he played that postion during his NHL career. When he became head coach, however, he took up the traditional role of coach of the forwards and head of the offense. He effectively switched jobs with Smith, who always had the offense before. Maybe I'm reading into it too much but it just didn't seem to work, not when it counted anyway. I was unimpressed with Dave's line combinations in the playoffs as well. He seemed to stick with combinations that worked during the season instead of lines that were working right then. I had higher hopes for him. Regular season success is great but I've seen the Wings stomp the Blues enough to know that winning in the playoffs is even better. I would not be all that sad to see Lewis coaching somewhere else. That said, I'm not sure how I feel about Mike Babcock. His success against us in the playoffs was more due to a dominating goalie and a suffocating style of clutch-and-grap than to his ability to coach excitement and skill. Still, the Ducks were not the most skilled team and he obviously worked with what he had. I'm a little concerned with his ability to coach stars, however. The situation with Sergei Fedorov in Anaheim did not go very well and, although they don't have such a prima donna on the roster now, the Wings are a team with more skill as well as one set in its ways. He will also have to face up to a lot more pressure from the fans here in Detroit. He does have youth over Dave, however. He's 42 and Lewis is 52. I think the Wings would be better off keeping Barry Smith around and giving him the head coaching spot. He's been around the organization long enough to make a transition smooth. Some may say the Wings could use a new face but I think they have enough maturity in the lockerroom with all of their veterans that a totally new coach is not necessary. It surprises me a little that the Wings are looking at signing anyone at the moment. Their General Manager, Ken Holland, had said previously that the team would not negotiate contracts with anyone until the new CBA is signed. We'll find out in the next couple days whether Dave will be on the bench next year or not. According to TSN, the Wings have told Lewis they will get back to him by the end of the week. If Babcock does not accept Burke's offer tomorrow, he will be heading somewhere else in the league, though not necessarily Detroit. Miscellaneous note: if all goes as planned, I will be living in an apartment building named "Babcock" this coming semester. Weird. Thanks for Carole Lee Sussman for the G&M link. Also, as if we Wings fans needed any more reminding, has a niece piece about Detroit's drafting prowess. UPDATE: Brian poses this question: How would Babcock effect who the Wings bring back or buy out? I don't know enough about the guy to say but it definitely would add a whole new dimension to Holland's decision making process in the coming months.


At 7/06/2005 07:21:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

Seeing as though the Wings didn't go with Barry Smith in 2002 and following what my instincts tell me, I doubt they'll go for him now. It's either Dave Lewis or an outsider (Babcock or whoever else is available)...And it won't be a poem-writing coach! :) The Wings are gonna get a tough coach this time around. on Babcock: "Babcock has the ability to get a lot from players while building a strong personal bond. Players uniformly say Babcock tells them the truth, no matter how much it hurts."

At 7/06/2005 07:32:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Yay, no more lockerroom poems for motivation.


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