So, where will Mike Babcock choose when he makes his decision, something he apparently plans to do by Wednesday?
We’ll go ahead and make Detroit and Buffalo the co-favorites.
The former is the familiar option, the one where he knows what to expect. He has a good relationship with the current GM, and there’s an owner that’s been good to him as well. The Red Wings may have an uncertain future, and you can rightly question where there’s a prospect with “big-time” potential. But the grass, as you may have heard, isn’t always greener on the other side.
But what if the grass is greener? Because sometimes the grass is greener. The Sabres already have Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nikita Zadorov in the system, and they’re going to draft Jack Eichel. That’s two centers and two d-men, each with a huge amount of potential. No, Buffalo isn’t going to win the Stanley Cup next season, but Babcock could walk into that organization — one where he already has a relationship with the GM — and shape those high-ceiling players exactly how he wants. That’s pretty tempting. And with a deep-pocketed owner, money would be no object.
Money, of course, would be no option for the Maple Leafs either. If Babcock wanted a challenge, there may be none bigger than the one in Toronto. What Canadian coach wouldn’t want to be the one that led the Leafs to their first Cup title since 1967? But do the Leafs have the pieces? Not yet they don’t. Heck, they don’t even have a GM. We’re not ready to count out the Leafs, but we’d sooner bet on someone like Pete DeBoer to get that gig.
St. Louis is an interesting new development, if only because the Blues would offer Babcock the best chance at winning a Cup as soon as possible. As in, next season. But the Blues haven’t even moved on from Ken Hitchcock yet. Is Babcock going to take a job that means his Hockey Canada colleague is out of one? Probably not. Besides, the Blues have a pretty strict budget.
San Jose and New Jersey are the other options, with neither seeming likely to land Babcock. The Sharks just have way too much uncertainty, and the Devils, well, let’s face it, he’s not going to New Jersey.