Buffalo Sabres: Could Mike Babcock Become the Next Head Coach?
Mercifully, the Buffalo Sabres season ended on Saturday night, with a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at First Niagara Center. In many respects, it was a case of mission accomplished, as the team secured 30th place in the standings.
No matter what the official line is, the Sabres front office was always aiming to finish dead last in the league. Doing so, ensures they will select no worse than second in the 2015 draft, while also giving them a 20 percent chance at first pick, and more importantly, Connor McDavid.
In many ways, it is the Sabres strategy in respect of the head coaching position, which is less clear. Common sense – and various rumours – tell us that Buffalo will part company with Ted Nolan.
If this transpires, questions abound about who will be brought in to replace the fan favourite. One of the possibilities may well surprise you – Mike Babcock.Mar 20, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan watches play from the bench during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
This suggestion came from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. And in many respects, his rationale makes sense.
Most analysts believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will make Babcock their top target. However, while this is likely to be the case, Simmons makes a compelling case for how the Detroit Red Wings coach could end up in Buffalo.
For one thing, the 51-year old formed a strong bond with the Anaheim Ducks director of player personnel, during his first season with the team in 2002. That man happens to be Sabres General Manager Tim Murray, and the two remain close friends to this day.
Another aspect Simmons mentions, is that money should be no option for Sabres owner Terry Pegula. He paid out big bucks to hire Rex Ryan for the Buffalo Bills, and would likely be more than willing to do the same to bring in Babcock.
It goes without saying that his addition would be a massive boost to the Sabres efforts to revive the franchise. The 2008 Stanley Cup winner is considered the dean of NHL coaching, having made the playoffs in all 10 of his seasons in charge of the Red Wings.
Understandably this is still a long shot, especially with there being no guarantee that Babcock will even leave Detroit. However, if the Sabres do win the lottery and draft McDavid, it’s entirely possible the Manitouwadge, Ontario native will suddenly become more interested in going to Buffalo.