Are Free Agents Really Avoiding Detroit Red Wings Because of Mike Babcock?

By Casey Drottar
Getty Images
Getty Images

While many NHL teams continue to wheel and deal throughout the offseason free agency period, one of the league’s most storied franchises has remained quiet. Despite efforts to bring in new talent, the Detroit Red Wings haven’t made much noise this offseason, and apparently there’s a reason for this.

The vibe going around the league, it seems, is that players aren’t exactly keen to the idea of playing for Detroit coach Mike Babcock. As accomplished as he is, apparently free agents aren’t tripping over themselves to play for one of the most highly regarded coaches in the league because he’s one of the NHL’s toughest bench bosses.

So, to be clear, despite Babcock coming off a season in which he dealt with more injuries than he could handle and still ended up pushing the Red Wings to a playoff berth, he’s too hard-nosed to play for? Seems a little far-fetched if you ask me. When probed about this idea in a recent radio interview, Babcock didn’t seem to be fretting about a poor reputation throughout the league.

“The way I look at it here, if you don’t want to be coached, don’t come here,” Babcock said during an interview on Detroit Sports 105.1. “If you want to be pushed to be the best that you can be, that’s what we do here. You know what? The proof is in the pudding.

“If (the Wings) are concerned about (free agents not liking him), then I should coach somewhere else.”

There are a few logical reasons why some free agents might be wary about signing with Detroit. Veterans such as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are getting up there in age, despite still showing they have something left in the tank. The team’s youth has potential, but still leaves something to be desired. But, to not want to play for Babcock because he’s rough around the edges? It doesn’t sound very rational.

Babcock’s resume speaks for itself. He’s been a head coach in the NHL since 2002, and has only missed the postseason once. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times, winning one of them. On top of this, Babcock has won a gold medal coaching the Canadian Hockey team in each of the past two Winter Olympics.

But, I mean, he’ll totally be tough on you if you’re struggling, so he’s someone you really don’t want to play for.

Is Detroit a Cup contender right now? Probably not. They’ve got some holes to fill and need more talent. At the same time, this isn’t an argument in favor of signing with Detroit. It’s merely against the idea of passing on the Wings because Babcock can be too hard on his players. You’re a professional hockey player, get over it.

Avoid the Wings because there are other, more talented teams out there? Sure. Pass on them due to a roster mixed with aging vets and unproven youngsters? Completely understand. But, ignoring the idea of joining Detroit because of their Stanley Cup winning, Jack Adams nominated, two-time Olympic champion head coach? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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