After being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, where will Mike Babcock land next season, if at all?
Even with a Stanley Cup drought now over 50 years and counting, expectations are always high for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After extending their winless streak to six in a row on Tuesday night with a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and amid ongoing speculation about his job security, head coach Mike Babcock was fired on Wednesday.
The Maple Leafs have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL this season, with a 9-10-4 record thus far and just one regulation win since Oct. 26. Add in Babcock signing the richest contract for a head coach in NHL history when he came aboard in 2015, and underachievement is not an option. Three straight first-round playoff exits turned up the heat on Babcock a little heading into this season, and the team has fallen flat.
Babcock’s experience and overall resume — with a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, two other Stanley Cup Final appearances and over 1,300 regular season wins — will bring plenty of interest. In-season coach firings in the NHL have not been as prevalent in recent years, so wherever Babcock goes, it will likely wait until next season barring something unforeseen.
Here are five potential landing spots for Babcock in 2020-21.
5. Minnesota Wild
At long last, the Wild appear committed to getting younger, bottoming out and getting a premium player in next June’s draft, and possibly the couple of drafts to follow. New general manager Bill Guerin will be charged with making the right decisions to foster a rebuild, and perhaps a quick one.
But Minnesota has an accomplished coach in Bruce Boudreau, whose contract does expire at the end of the season, and the remainder of the bloated contracts given to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter hanging over them. They were given matching 13-year, $98 million deals on July 4, 2012, with five more seasons remaining with $7.538 million cap hits each year.
The lingering question is how Wild owner Craig Leipold will process and accept a bad season this year, and perhaps a few more losing seasons to follow. He previously cited making “tweaks” when more was clearly necessary, and it’s unclear if that thought process has really changed.
The odds of Babcock going to Minnesota are slim, but there is a chance if Leipold remains delusional about the Wild’s immediate prospects.