Babcock Watch is Officially On

 Dave Regnik via Getty Images

Dave Regnik via Getty Images

The buzz around Detroit is that Babcock is leaving. He was recently given permission to talk with other teams and Red Wings media and fans can see the writing on the wall. Combine this with Babcock’s critical post game comments following their game 7 loss and it seems inevitable that he will be moving on from Detroit.

 So if and when Babcock leaves who becomes the front-runner for his services? Babcock has stated four factors that will influence where he signs his next coaching contract:

1.            Salary: Babcock feels NHL coaches are grossly underpaid and views his UFA status as a chance to increase the standard across the board.

2.       Superstar Power: Babcock wants to coach young superstars, players of Datsyuk/Zetterberg quality.

3.       Win Now: Babcock does not want to rebuild, he wants to hit the ground running and be a cup contender next spring.

4.       His Wife’s Input: Babcock made a great joke last week saying, “Everyone thinks Ken Holland is the boss.. My wife is the boss.” All joking aside Babcock’s wife and family will play a huge role in his decision.

Now since the criteria is on the table let’s take a look at the candidates. We have Detroit (we will still include for this exercise), Toronto, Edmonton, San Jose, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and St. Louis.

Immediately, let’s eliminate Toronto because screw the Leafs, right? But really they are mess, Babcock won’t touch this situation.

Next, let’s cross Philly off of our list. Giroux and Voracek qualify as young superstars, but the Flyers lack depth and that blue line is a mess. It’s hard to see Babcock believing he can win now with that roster.

Moving on, Babcock and Detroit had a great run but it’s over. His team is aging and like he said last week, there are no up and coming superstars in the system. See ya later.

San Jose is interesting… Pavelski and Couture are two stud forwards in their prime. A few nice moves this offseason and San Jose is ready to win both now and later. However for the sake of this project we are going to say that Mrs. Babcock doesn’t want to go to the Bay Area. San Jose is out.

So now we are down to the final three.. Edmonton, Buffalo, and St. Louis. Let’s examine these options a little further.

 Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo are both star talents that could attract Mike Babcock to the Blues.  Photo by Ben Nelms via Getty Images

Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo are both star talents that could attract Mike Babcock to the Blues.

Photo by Ben Nelms via Getty Images

If Babcock sticks 100% to his criteria, St. Louis is the winner. They have superstars in Tarasenko, Stastny, Pietrangelo as well as a great supporting cast. They are committed to winning now and have been a regular season powerhouse the past 4 seasons. However this squad has only one playoff series victory in that span. Perhaps Babcock is the catalyst needed to push this team over the hump. No major roster moves are needed, he can simply come in, coach, and compete for a Stanley Cup immediately. If Hitchcock and St. Louis part ways, Babcock makes a lot of sense.

Next, let’s look at Edmonton’s situation. The franchise had reached rock bottom, become a total joke until a few ping pong balls changed their fortunes and outlook. Now they are in line to draft Connor McDavid, have acquired a respected GM and suddenly all the franchise’s previous mistakes look miniscule. The offensive firepower led by McDavid and Hall projects to be ferocious, and Nugent-Hopkins has star potential as well. The Oilers need to make some moves to clean up their goaltending and blue line but the future looks bright. There have been reports for months indicating Babcock’s desire to coach McDavid, if Babcock is willing to sacrifice win now for win in 2-3 years Edmonton could be his landing spot. Also worth noting that Babcock’s summer home is not too far from Edmonton, this could be a selling point for his wife.

And now Buffalo. Buffalo is by no means the favorite to land Babcock, but if this were a horse race, they are a great value bet. The Sabres would be that horse with about 8-1 odds behind some favorites, but there a couple of inside guys whispering at the track and they love those 8-1 odds.

If you’re a Sabres fan the national media is sickening to read. Buffalo is an afterthought and gets no respect. Seriously, read outside opinions on the Sabres, you’ll see words such as hopeless, disaster, and that the rebuild is in its’ infancy. What the outside doesn’t see is that Jack Eichel is the end of the rebuild not the start of it. Buffalo is no longer rebuilding, as of last month the Sabres are in the business of winning Stanley Cups-- lookout.

Now how does this pertain to Babcock and his four factors? Let’s divulge.

Salary: ESPN’s John Buccigross tweeted last week “No one will pay more” in reference to Terry Pegula’s inclination to bring in Babcock. If you doubt Terry Pegula’s willingness to spend, stop reading this please and go hit yourself in the head with a rock. Buffalo will be the highest bid, guaranteed.

Superstar Power: Maybe not as scary as McDavid/Hall but Eichel/Kane will not be far behind. In addition, Rasmus Ristolainen is a star in the making and just one of several young NHL ready defensemen on Buffalo’s roster.

Win Now: Not quite ready yet Mike, but playoffs are a realistic expectation with this group immediately. By 2016-17, expectations will be sky high. The supporting cast is in place, players like Reinhart, Girgensons, Ennis, Moulson, Zadorov, Bogosian, and Psysk will complement the stars and expedite the championship expectations.   

Wife’s Input: This is the X factor in Buffalo’s back pocket. Terry AND Kim both have the ability to wine and dine and make outsiders feel at home. Ask Rex Ryan. Kim Pegula is a powerful and strong female figure, look for her to draw connections with Mrs. Babcock and sell the Babcock family on Buffalo.

The favorites for Babcock are St. Louis and Edmonton in my opinion. But, if I were a betting man, I’ll take the odds on Buffalo. Look for them to be a dark horse in this. The Pegula’s shocked the world when they hired Rex Ryan, don’t be surprised if they do it again.