The Detroit Red Wings had 10 very special seasons under Mike Babcock, who won a Stanley Cup Final for the Red Wings in 2008 and took them to another in 2009. The Red Wings are one of the most storied franchises in NHL history, but in May, the 52-year-old Babcock became head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a franchise that hasn’t won it all since 1967.
Babcock is going to have to build that team from scratch.
“Yeah, he really is. He really is,” Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But I think he knew that going in and had a great 10 years here in Detroit. I think it was a tough decision for him to leave. I think he was kind of partial on both sides. Obviously Toronto offered him a huge contract and he’s Canadian. I think he saw an opportunity to jump there and help a team try to rebuild. Obviously he’s really passionate. He wants to win Stanley Cups and wants to be successful. I think that will bode well for Toronto as they rebuild, as they gather draft picks through this next year or two. They’ll turn that thing around. They’re going to be a tough team for us to deal with the next handful of years. They’re already a hard team to play against. You can already see the impression he’s having on the team. We played them the first game and beat them 4-0. But the last game we played them in Toronto. It was a really tight game.”
Detroit won, 2-1, in overtime.
“They played hard, they played with good structure,” Abdelkader said. “He’s just a tremendous coach and is going to make that whole organization better.”
Toronto is 3-8-4 this season, while Detroit is 8-6-1 under new head coach Jeff Blashill. The Red Wins have won four of their last five games, beating Ottawa, Tampa, Toronto and Washington in the process.
“Yeah, it’s been a good measuring stick for us here early in the season,” Abdelkader said. “We won our first three games, I think went 1-4-1 in the next six and we struggled a bit. But I think we’ve been finding our game here of late. Obviously we played a really good team last night in Washington and beat them. I thought we played really well. We had good goaltending, but right now they’re a top team in the East, so I think we measured right up with them and we’re right there with them. We play a certain way, we play the right way. We got a team that can be a force to be reckoned with as we move forward here. So we’re young. We’re real young. We got some young players coming in here. Obviously we’ve got a good mix of veterans, but it should be an exciting year for us.”