Mike Babcock (Harry How/Getty Images)
At some point in 2015, Mike Babcock will become the highest paid coach in the NHL. His salary will start with a four, perhaps even a five. We asked a couple of them exactly why Babcock is worth at least $4 million a year and here’s what we were told.At some point in 2015, Mike Babcock will become the highest paid coach in the NHL. His salary will start with a four, perhaps even a five. Whether it’s with Detroit or somewhere else, Babcock will set a new salary standard for coaches. And if it’s true that a high tide raises all ships, other coaches around the league should be grateful. We asked a couple of them exactly why Babcock is worth at least $4 million a year and here’s what we were told. 1. THE MARKET RULES: The one factor that has suppressed coaching salaries has been the law of supply and demand. In almost all cases, the supply of coaches – there are hundreds of great hockey minds out there – exceeds the demand. That’s why coaches, who have as much impact on the success of a team as any player – have until recently received fourth-line money. There are many coaches, but there is only one Babcock. And now the tables have turned. There also happen to be multiple teams that see Babcock as a savior. Babcock knows he’s in demand and he can leverage that power any way he wishes. Free agency is all about timing and for Babcock, the timing couldn’t be better.
2. HE WINS, FULL STOP:Babcock doesn’t win all the time, but he makes enough of a habit of it for everyone to notice. Even if he doesn’t win, Babcock does everything he can to pursue that goal. “He’s most like Scotty (Bowman) in that way, that he doesn’t care about what his players think of him because nothing gets in the way of the ultimate goal,” said a fellow coach. Babcock is the only coach in the Triple Gold Club, with his Stanley Cup in 2008, his World Championship in 2004 and two Olympic gold medals. Add a WJC title in 1997, a Canadian university title in 1994, a provincial college title and two conference titles in the WHL and you have the ultimate winner. 3. HE KNOWS PLAYERS, HIS OWN AND THOSE ON OTHER TEAMS: One coach said Babcock knows fine details of all 10 skaters on the ice when watching a game. But more than that, he knows the breaking point of his own players and knows what buttons to push to get them going. “Some of us are demanding with practice, and we stay out too long and that creates negative energy,” a coach said. “Mike knows exactly when to get on the ice and off the ice.” 4. HE SEES THE BIG PICTURE: As much as Babcock is focused on winning, he also recognizes it is a process and never loses sight of that process. “Good coaches don’t worry about the debris around them and the debris they create, and they never get wrapped up in the moment,” one coach said. “They know the end result isn’t the next day or the next week. They’re always moving the process forward. Mike does that as well as anybody.” Babcock has also done what few coaches have been able to do, and that’s usher the same team from being a Cup contender, through a rough patch that comes with transition, back to being a contender. You don’t gain those kinds of survival skills without long-term vision. 5. HE HAS A SENSE OF COMPASSION: As much as his players may cross swords with him, they know Babcock has their backs. “If there was a player or coach in trouble and needed help, he’d make four phone calls and it would be settled,” a coach said. “I know of two players who needed help and he got it done before anybody could do anything about it. This feature appears in the Jan. 26 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.