Mike Babcock (Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have landed what may be the most prized piece on the free agent market this off-season: coach Mike Babcock. Over his time in the NHL, Babcock has been one of the best coaches, but where does he rank in all-time points percentage?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been mired in the basement of the NHL for several seasons, but the hiring of coach Mike Babcock is giving Leafs Nation a reason for hope for a better and much brighter future.
While he hasn’t coached long enough to make the top 10 all-time wins list, Babcock does have the most of any coach to be behind the bench for fewer than 1,000 games. As such, he has managed to become one of the effective coaches in the history of the game.
In order to better represent who exactly the top 10 coaches by points percentage are, however, we have to set a limit of at least 100 games as an NHL bench boss. Otherwise some coaches, like Cap Raeder, who was the fill-in coach for the San Jose Sharks for one game – a victory – have near perfect winning percentages without really having control of the club.
Here are the top 10 best coaches by points percentage:
10. Floyd Smith – Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs
Smith didn’t have the longest coaching tenure, but he made his mark with the 1980s Buffalo Sabres. In three full seasons with Buffalo, the club never won fewer than 46 games. After spending one season coaching in the WHA, Smith came back to coach the Maple Leafs for one season. Toronto finished with a 30-33-5 record under Smith.
309 GP – 173 W – 95 L – 41 T - .626 PTS%
9. Mike Babcock – Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs
He hasn’t yet won is first game as a Maple Leaf, he has 527 regular season victories to his name over his time with the Ducks and Red Wings. He is the winningest coach in Detroit Red Wings history, which is no small feat considering he had to pass Scotty Bowman and Jack Adams, the man the coach of the year award is named after, to get there.
950 GP – 527 W – 285 L – 19 T – 119 OTL - .627 PTS%
8. Toe Blake – Montreal Canadiens
Blake is synonymous with the role of Montreal coach and there’s good reason for that. In his 13 seasons as the Canadiens’ bench boss, Blake helped Montreal take home one third of their NHL record 24 Stanley Cups. Blake’s eight Stanley Cup rings is the second most by any coach in league history.
914 GP – 500 W – 255 L – 159 T - .634 PTS%
7. Todd McLellan – San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers
It’s a bit surprising, but the truth it that Babcock’s understudy has a better points percentage than him. It helps that the San Jose Sharks clubs McLellan coached were some of the best regular season teams in league history. Unfortunately for him, however, the regular season success has never translated to the playoffs as he couldn’t coach the Sharks to a Stanley Cup.
540 GP – 311 W – 163 L – 66 OTL - .637 PTS%
6. Pete Green – Ottawa Senators
He came before the NHL became what it is today, but Green maintains one of the best winning percentages for any coach to ever step behind the bench. The coach of the 1920s Senators, Green led the team to two Stanley Cup victories back in the Challenge Cup era. No coach on the list has coached fewer games.
150 GP – 94 W – 52 L – 4 T -- .640 PTS%
5. Claude Ruel – Montreal Canadiens
Ruel had two stints with the Canadiens and was effective in both. From 1968-69 to 1970-71, he took control of the Habs and led them to a Stanley Cup in his first season. He was out of the post by early 1970-71, but returned to coach the club again in 1979-80. He would spend two seasons with the Canadiens during his second tenure, retiring at age 42.
305 GP – 172 W – 82 L – 51 T - .648 PTS%
4. Scotty Bowman – St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings
No coach has ever won more than Scotty Bowman. The winningest coach in NHL history, Bowman is not just the all-time regular season wins leader, he also has more Stanley Cups, nine, than any other coach in league history. Only once did Bowman make the Stanley Cup final and not take home the sport’s top prize.
2141 GP – 1244 W – 573 L – 314 T – 10 OTL - .657 PTS%
3. Bruce Boudreau – Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks
Boudreau hasn’t seen anything but success in his eight seasons as an NHL coach. And though his teams have never made the Stanley Cup final, he’s still putting up regular season success with astonishing regularity.
599 GP – 363 W – 167 L – 69 OTL - .664 PTS%
2. Dan Bylsma – Pittsburgh Penguins
Immediate NHL success as a coach doesn’t happen often, but Dan Bylsma didn’t waste any time winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins. He only coached 25 regular season games before helping Pittsburgh to its third Stanley Cup in franchise history in 2008-09, but a lack of playoff success in subsequent years led to his dismissal.
401 GP – 252 W – 117 L – 32 OTL - .668 PTS%
1. Tom Johnson – Boston Bruins
He didn’t coach for long, but he got to watch legendary Boston defenseman Bobby Orr play from his post on the bench. Johnson was the coach of the Bruins in the early 1970s and won a Stanley Cup with the club in 1971-72. Though the Cup winner was scored by Orr, it wasn’t his famous goal where he flew through the air. It was instead a first-period marker that Orr registered that stood as the winner. Johnson only coached 52 more games after the Stanley Cup victory, taking a job in management midway through the following season.
208 GP – 142 W – 43 L – 23 T - .738 PTS%