We’re not sure if TSN/NBC insiders Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger are just speculating, or if they’ve been told something, but it’s worth mentioning that both have gone on the radio recently and raised the possibility of the Philadelphia Flyers trying to hire current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who, of course, has no contract with any team past this season.
Some may look at where the Flyers are in the standings and snicker at this suggestion. But here are three reasons to wonder if maybe, just possibly, Babcock could pick Philly over staying in Detroit:
1. The Red Wings’ two core forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, are both well into their 30s. The Flyers’ two core forwards, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, are still in their 20s. While it’s true the Wings have some excellent young wingers on the roster (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar) and in the system (Anthony Mantha), their long-term future at the all-important center position is less certain. In Philadelphia, the future down the middle could be Giroux, Scott Laughton, and Sean Couturier. That’s pretty promising. Plus, the Flyers also have some good young wingers on the roster (Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn).
2. When Babcock won his only Stanley Cup in 2007-08, he had a blue line that featured Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Niklas Kronwall. Only the latter is still around, and he’s 34 now. While the Flyers’ blue line is arguably its biggest current weakness, there are promising pieces on the way, including Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. Those three won’t be NHL-ready overnight, but would there be a better coach than Babcock to guide their development? And, more importantly, might he see more promise in the future of the Flyers’ blue line than Detroit’s?
3. Money. The Flyers aren’t afraid to spend it. As McKenzie noted on TSN 1050, per Nichols on Hockey, “they’ve got an owner who’s not going to worry about putting a 5 in front of anybody’s salary, and a lot of zeroes after it for a coach.” Not saying Babcock is all about the money, and Detroit should at the very least be willing to make him the highest-paid coach in the NHL. But if Ed Snider sets his sights on Babcock, you just know he’s going to open his checkbook in a big way.
Now, having said all that, the consensus is that Babcock will stay in Detroit. Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Red Wings, including their long-term future. But until he picks a team, the speculation will continue. For now, we’ll keep the Flyers on the list of possibilities.