Magazine article Ivey Business Journal Online

Why Maple Leafs' Bet on Babcock Is a Big Gamble

Magazine article Ivey Business Journal Online

Why Maple Leafs' Bet on Babcock Is a Big Gamble

Article excerpt

Despite spending US$50 million to land one of the most respected coaches in National Hockey League (NHL) history, the Toronto Maple Leafs are once again setting fans up for disappointment by handing Mike Babcock a golden eight-year contract.

Earlier this year, following a road trip in which the Toronto Maple Leafs lost five of seven games, team management fired former coach Randy Carlyle, who had been hired to replace Ron Wilson in 2012 by former general manager (GM) Brian Burke. A follower of the proven-winner theory, Burke had hired Carlyle because he had won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (when Burke was that team's GM). Under Carlyle, the Leafs made the playoffs just once, which is why then-GM Dave Nonis let him go.

Now hopes are being raised by the hiring of another so-called proven winner.

The idea of hiring Babcock to coach the Leafs, of course, had plenty of support even before Carlyle's departure. More than a few NHL commentators consider him the perfect candidate for the job.

Babcock is indeed a very successful coach. He has won at multiple levels, including a CIS University Cup with the University of Lethbridge in 1994, an Ice Hockey World Junior Championship with Canada in 1997 and an Ice Hockey World Championship in 2004. He won Olympic gold with Canada in 2010 and 2014. He led the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League to the WHL finals in 1996 and 2000. As an NHL coach, Babcock has missed the playoffs just once - during his second season (2003/2004) with the Ducks, after leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals the previous season, his first as an NHL coach. During his tenure with Detroit, he led the Red Wings to the playoffs every year for nine years, including two trips to the finals with one Cup victory during the 2007/2008 season. The Red Wings lost the Cup to the Pittsburgh Penguins during Babcock's other trip to the finals in the 2008/2009 season. …

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