Hockey Canada Made a Huge Mistake with Former Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock

Toronto Maple Leafs / Hockey Canada - Mike Babcock (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs / Hockey Canada - Mike Babcock (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

Hockey Canada had the chance to capitalize on Mike Babcock’s recent firing, but unfortunately, missed out on their opportunity.

The Toronto Maple Leafs fired their head coach, Mike Babcock in favour of the man calling the shots behind the Toronto Marlies bench, Sheldon Keefe. In doing so, it freed Babcock to accept roles from other organizations, both in the NHL and out.

The search that was underway for a Hockey Canada head coach was winding down when new broke of Babcock’s firing. Leading that quest for a national men’s team coach was acting general manager Sean Burke along with Shane Doan. They were on the hunt for someone to coach at the Spengler Cup.

Wayne Gretzky was originally offered the position, which he turned down. The Great One considered taking the role, but ultimately decided to decline the honor. With the tournament taking place in Davos, Switzerland, Gretzky made clear that he preferred to spend Christmas with his grandchildren instead of running the lines overseas.

Without the involvement of the hockey legend, Burke and Doan were forced to move on. With Babcock getting relieved of his duties on Wednesday, this was the opportunity to bring the perfect coach to Davos.

Why the exToronto Maple Leafs Coach Was Right for the Job

Despite Babs’s propensity to raise the ire of Leafs fans, his style and preferences were ideal for this particular tournament. This is because Canada has traditionally assembled mature rosters to travel to Switzerland. They have often been comprised of former NHLers and Canadian players already playing in Europe.

Babcock has made a career of demonstrating his affection for veteran players. In fact, his critics have often been vocal about the ice time he dedicated to older players ahead of the rest of his lineup.

Last year, head coach Kevin Dineen had 80-percent of his roster composed of players born in the 1980s. Two of those players also played for the Maple Leafs. They were a 33-year-old Daniel Winnik and a 38-year-old Dominic Moore.

Babcock would have also been a perfect fit thanks to his work ethic and attention to detail. Since there is very little time for players to prepare for action once learning they’ve made the team, it is important to have a coach who has put in the work in the weeks leading up to the tournament.

This is one of Babcock’s fortes. He would surely have watched a great deal of video and worked with his assistants to create a plan for the Spengler Cup.

He Has a Lot of International Experience

Babs is no stranger to international hockey and Hockey Canada. He served as head coach for multiple teams. He also had unprecedented success with those groups.

Babcock’s first foray into coaching Team Canada came in 1997 during the World Junior Championships. He continued Canada’s hot streak at the tournament and managed to capture the country’s fifth consecutive gold medal.

Seven years later, Babcock was back with the national team. This time, he was Canada’s World Championship head coach. He won that 2004 tournament. That was likely taken into consideration when Babs was offered and ultimately accepted the prestigious role of head coach for the 2010 Olympics.

Just like he did at the previous international tournament, Babcock led his team to an Olympic gold medal. If that weren’t impressive enough, he repeated the feat at the very next Olympics, winning consecutive titles.

Babcock was behind the bench once more for the Canadian National Team. That happened in 2016 at the World Cup of Hockey. Babcock did the only thing he knows how to do in international play, he won.

Canada took the gold and Babs entered the history book as the only head coach to win gold at the World Juniors, World Championships, Olympics, and World Cup.

Adding a Spengler Cup gold may be a desire for the highly decorated coach.

The Coaching Staff Heading to Switzerland

Hockey Canada did not get the ‘recently made free-agent’ coach for this coming Spengler Cup. Instead, Burke and Doan named former Edmonton Oilers bench boss and general manager Craig MacTavish to be the head coach of Team Canada. He will be joined by two assistant coaches.

One of MacT’s assistants, Paul Coffey, has also left his mark in Edmonton. He did so as a player and as the team’s skills and development coach.

Coffey’s short time with the Oilers coaching staff didn’t come long after he was a head coach in Toronto. The Hall of Fame defenseman was coaching in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) for his son’s AAA minor hockey league team, the Toronto Marlboros.

MacTavish will also have the benefit of another assistant Misha Donskov, the director of hockey operations for the Vegas Golden Knights. Before joining the Golden Knights, he was a longtime assistant coach who even has experience with Hockey Canada.

Donskov was Team Canada’s assistant coach for a pair of IIHF World Championship gold medals and he was also behind the bench for the 2015 gold medal win at the World Juniors. Donskov had the same role during his time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Ottawa 76s.

Though Babcock won’t be a part of this year’s Spengler Cup, there is always the possibility that he returns to international hockey next year.

Next. How Don Cherry’s Comments Affect the Toronto Maple Leafs. dark

The Spengler Cup closes the calendar year. The tournament runs from December 26 to 31. Hopefully, Canada will medal after it lost the championship game via a shootout last year.