My obligatory “Fire Babcock” post is long overdue. Seems to me the fan base is pretty divided on this issue, so the point of this is to educate the pro-Babs people on what we, the pro-Fire fans, are seeing game after game. A rebuttal post is in the works, so you’ll get to read both sides of the argument.
Before I get started, a quick disclaimer: I still think Babcock is a good coach, I just think he’s going through the motions and maybe a change would do both of us some good. Like when Ville Leino was traded away, then set rookie playoff scoring records with a new team. The talent was always there, but a change of scenery was required to get him back on track. I do think Babcock is still good, but I will argue after the jump that he’s just going through the motions at this point.
More after the jump:
History: I was happy when Modano signed in 2010. Despite his age, I liked his speed and experience. I thought we were going to have one of the best third lines in hockey that year. A freak wrist injury killed his season, but he was fresh when the playoffs started. Unfortunately, he was a healthy scratch most of the time, though I don’t recall him being in the lineup for any losses. After clawing back from a 0-3 hole, the hard working Mike Modano was scratched again in favor of guys who were either hurt, lazy or both.
More History: Mike Commodore wasn’t an all-star defenseman by any means, but he played well for us. Ericsson in particular was a better player with Commie at his side, but he rarely got to play. The conventional wisdom was that the team wanted to give Kindl more time to develop and didn’t want him to sit in favor of a veteran. Ok, sure. And then Huskins played last night and Kindl was a scratch.
I bring these two instances up because they were both cases of Detroit not playing their best lineup at any given time. What’s worse is these are two instances of free agents coming to Detroit only to be shunned in favor of less deserving players. Commodore asked Babcock before signing if his past comments about him were water under the bridge and if he’d get a fair shake. Babcock said yes, then scratched him. Ken Holland wined and dined Modano so hard you’d think he was trying to get laid. He signed, then he was scratched. You think players making life-changing decisions about where to sign won’t take those instances into consideration?
Lines: Mike Babcock does not build the team he coaches. Ultimately, that falls in the lap of Ken Holland, so if you’re not happy with the players we signed last summer, it’s not really Babcock’s fault. He can influence Holland one way or the other, but it’s the GM who offers the contracts. Babcock also doesn’t decide who gets called up from or sent down to Grand Rapids. But the guys that are assigned to the Red Wings are his responsibility. That means if Dan Cleary is coasting around on a top line and Tomas Tatar is barely able to break a sweat with his bottom 6 minutes, that’s Mike Babcock saying he thinks this team has a better chance of winning if Cleary plays more than Tatar. He’s wrong and you know it.
Icing Screw Ups: Detroit tends to roll four lines as much as they can. So we’ll usually see the top line, the second line, the third line and then the fourth line on a fairly decent rotation. But then this will happen: The third line runs a team ragged with pressure. They get a few chances, but don’t convert. Finally, in desperation, they ice the puck. So now Detroit has the chance to put a rested line of Zetterberg, Brunner and whoever else against a tired team, right? Wrong. It’s not their turn. Fourth line goes out there, does practically nothing and the chance is squandered. That’s why I say Babcock is just going through the motions. It’s as if he’s not thinking anymore.
Wait, who was on the ice!?: I’m totally cool with rewarding young guys with playing time that they’ve earned, but let it make sense. Andersson hadn’t done much other than turn the puck over a few times against the Kings, yet there he was on the ice in the final minute of regulation. Why? Gaining experience? Can’t he gain that by defending a two goal lead? Then work his way up to defending one goal leads? Baby steps, maybe?
And why was Emmerton our extra skater against the ducks? I was impressed by his guts on the PK, but being down a goal is different from being up a goal. No way he should have been out there. Not to say that Emmerton cost us that empty net goal, but he didn’t exactly help prevent it.
But Injuries!: Yes, Detroit is banged up. But are they so broken that Emmerton was our only option for an extra skater? The skaters on the ice trying to salvage a point against the Ducks were Zetterberg, Brunner, Tatar, Kronwall, Cleary and Emmerton. What, NOW we don’t want to give Andersson any experience? After collecting his first NHL goal and assist in the same game, factoring into the only goals we got in the game, NOW he sits and watches?
Do you see now why Mike Babcock makes me crazy? Either Cleary or Emmerton should have been sitting in favor of Andersson. Nyquist should have been playing in favor of whoever was left of the two. We needed to score and our best possible player combinations were not out there.
So now what? Well, two out of the last four cups have been won by teams that fired their coach mid-season. It doesn’t always work, of course. Some coaches are fired because they couldn’t miracle their crappy teams into the playoffs. In some cases, though, good teams are not being utilized to their full potential. I think Detroit falls into that category. I believe a coaching change would wake up some of the guys on this team that think their spots are guaranteed. I think a new coach would be fresh enough to know when to put the top line out against a tired defense. I think a new coach turns this team into a contender.
Who?: And that’s where I fall flat. My pick would be Renney since he’s already here, but like some have pointed out, our special teams, which he’s in charge of, have been garbage. Fair point. But could it also be that he’s trying to organize players that Babcock has lost control of? Last year I was hoping we’d get Hitchcock, but the Blues took him. Turned their season around, too.
I know he was great in 2008. The team itself had a great year, too and we the fans had one hell of an offseason. But when does the good will of 2008’s success end? I want to win like that again and I just don’t see that happening with our current leadership.