Photo: Sporting News
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman told NHL Network recently that former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is in the mix to become the Washington Capitals‘ next head coach and “definitely a contender,” saying “I do think they have interest in Babcock.”
However, he said, “I think there are other candidates still in the mix” and that Peter Laviolette “is in that mix too,” even though he thinks Babcock has a good chance for the job.
Freidman also added that he is unsure of the Capitals’ interest in former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant after the team interviewed him earlier this month.
The team feels like they lost an edge, according to a player, who added that “it was not there” in the Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto, where they earned the third seed in the conference after going 1-1-1 in the round-robin tournament and fell to former head coach Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders in five games of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Freidman said that the organization knows that.
The Capitals want someone to push buttons, Freidman said. He continued to say, “Mike Babcock is definitely one of those guys” and “he’s done a lot of things to help the [Capitals].”
The Capitals fired head coach Todd Reirden on August 23 after back-to-back first-round exits in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Reirden joined Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan’s staff, as an assistant on September 2.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan expressed that the team will be looking for an experienced head coach after the team relieved Reirden of his duties.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) September 8, 2020
Babcock was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 20 after a 9-10-4 start to the season and three consecutive seasons of losing in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a talented but inexperienced core. Babcock guided the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came just one win shy of a repeat the next season. He has gone 700-418-19 (.608 points percentage) in 1,301 career games behind the bench with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings and has taken his teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 of his 15 seasons as a coach. He is 90-74 (.549 points percentage) during the tournament in his career.
Babcock also led the Canadian men’s Olympic team to two consecutive gold medal wins in 2010 and 2014 as head coach. Though there were complaints about how he treated his players in Toronto, his track record combined with the fact that he is a free agent makes him a possibility. He has been nominated twice for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s head coach of the year, but was relieved of his duties after the Maple Leafs started the season going 9-10-4.
Former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen called Babcock “the worst person I’ve ever met” in an interview with the Detroit Free Press published two weeks after the Maple Leafs fired him. There was also a story last year where Babcock asked 23-year-old forward Mitch Marner to rank his Maple Leafs teammates from least hard-working to most and then shared it with the team.
In 1,210 career NHL games, Laviollete has gone 637-425-123 (.588 points percentage) with the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. He is 75-68 (.524 winning percentage) in 143 Stanley Cup Playoff games and took the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and the Flyers to the Final in 2010 after winning the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He also led the Predators to their first Presidents’ Trophy in 2018. The Predators fired him on January 6 after a 19-15-7 start.
In 541 career games behind the bench with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Vegas Golden Knights, the Gallant went 270-216-51 (.550 points percentage) in the regular season and 18-15 (.545 winning percentage) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He took the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, where they lost to the Capitals in five games but set every expansion team record. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2018 and was nominated in 2016 with the Panthers. Gallant was fired on January 15 after the Golden Knights started the season 24-19-6.
By Harrison Brown