So, as we know, there is joy in the so-called hockey empire.
Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the financially-rich, performance-poor, National Hockey League team of dysfunction and futility, have managed to secure the services of free-agent coach Mike Babcock.
That the Maple Leafs were able to woo Babcock away from the Detroit Red Wings for eight years and $50 million is being viewed as the heist of the century by those who are blindly loyal in their support of Toronto’s favourite losers.
To be honest, I am not quite sure what all the fuss over Babcock is.
Yes, he won a Stanley Cup in the 10 years that he was in Detroit.
But Randy Carlyle, who the Maple Leafs fired mid-season in 2014-2015, also has a Stanley Cup to his credit — from when he was coaching the Anaheim Ducks. And let’s not forget that Carlyle won his Stanley Cup in Anaheim in 2007, not long after the Ducks had parted ways with Babcock as their coach.
I keep hearing and reading that Babcock led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup playoffs 10 years in a row. And while that is true, the Red Wings also made the playoffs in 14 straight seasons before Babcock arrived — a pretty-strong indication that Detroit has been one of the NHL’s best-run franchises over the past 24 years.
So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Babcock merely carried on a winning tradition in Detroit — one that was established long before he became Red Wings coach.
But what really gets me is that over the past three seasons, the Babcock-coached Red Wings lost in the first round of the playoffs each time. In fact, this year, the Red Wings had a three games to two lead on Tampa Bay only to drop the next two and lose the series to the Lightning — which is coached by Jon Cooper, who not that long ago was coaching the Metro Jets, a tier 3 junior team from the Detroit area.
At any rate, don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to say that Babcock is not a high-end, qualified coach.
It’s just that he is no more qualified in taking the Leafs job amid all of this frenzied fuss than Carlyle was when he arrived in Toronto after winning a Stanley Cup in Anaheim. And anyone who follows the NHL can tell you how Carlyle quickly went from being a winner in Anaheim to a loser in Toronto.
To be sure, Babcock isn’t the first big-name, hired gun to strut into Leafs town over the past few years.
Before Carlyle went to Toronto to coach, since-fired general manager Brian Burke arrived as the high-priced, big-ticket guy who was going to deliver the Stanley Cup championship that has eluded the Leafs since 1967.
Personally, I am happy that Babcock has left the Red Wings for the Maple Leafs.
For one, it was never all about Babcock in Detroit. But I suspect it is going to be all about Babcock in Toronto — which should play right into the big ego of a man who turned his status as a free-agent coach into an NHL soap opera.
Babcock seemed to take delight in the fact that he was a big-name, big-shot by making sure he was front and centre in the daily hockey news — like would he stay in Detroit or would he sign with Toronto or Buffalo or Edmonton?
With a new front-office in Toronto that includes Brendan Shanahan, Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas, Babcock has a glorious opportunity to be a hockey saviour in what has been a hockey scrap yard for way too many years.
I have no doubt that Babcock will do well with the Maple Leafs.
Just as I have no doubt that the Red Wings will do well without Babcock.
PHOTO: Mike Babcock has left the winning ways of the Detroit Red Wings for Toronto’s favourite losers, the Maple Leafs. (Photo by Toronto Sun.)