Rumours swirling Wings’ Babcock wants to be NHL’s highest-paid coach
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock points to the ice during Game 2 of the first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)
The financial bar, it seems, has been set in the Mike Babcock sweepstakes, especially if you believe the chatter around the league that he is looking to become the highest paid coach in the NHL.
The most recent member of the coaching fraternity to cash in on a successful run was Boston’s Claude Julien, who this past week was inked to a reported three-year contract extension said to be worth $2.5 million per season. That leaves him with the second highest annual salary among NHL bench bosses, trailing only the $2.75 million per being brought in by the Chicago Blackhawks’ Joel Quenneville.
Julien is second in tenure among all NHL coaches to Babcock who, as has been well publicized, is in the final year of his deal with the Detroit Red Wings and already being billed as the top potential free agent who might hit the market next summer.
Of course, whether it’s the Wings or another team, it appears it will cost at least $3 million per season to land Backcock’s services.
That seems like a reasonable price compared to some of the highest-paid coaches in the other North American pro sports leagues.
Doc Rivers of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers leads the way after signing a five-year, $50 million extension, landing him an average yearly salary of $10 million. In the NFL, Sean Payton of the New Orlean Saints is pulling in an average of $8 million per season. And in Major League Baseball, Anaheim mamager Mike Scioscia is locked up through 2018 at $5 million per.
Given that perspective, handing Backcock $3 million-plus per year certainly is market value. And who knows? For a guy who coached the Wings to two finals, won a Stanley Cup and led Team Canada to a pair of Olympic gold medals, even approaching $4 million does not seem outlandish in the least.
As for now, Quenneville leads the way in the NHL followed by Julien and two-time Cup winner Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings ($2.25 million). Then comes a gaggle logjammed at $2 million, a group that includes Babcock, the Leafs’ Randy Carlyle, the Habs’ Michel Therrien, the Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, the Preds’ Peter Laviolette, the Stars’ Lindy Ruff and, last but not least, John Tortorella, who is still being paid by the Canucks despite having been fired during the offseason.
SIN CITY SIZZLE
While NHL officials continue to deny that firm expansion or relocation plans are in the works, speculation linking the NHL and Las Vegas just won’t go away.
Helping to fuel such talk is the unstable situations in Florida and Arizona, even though both the league and the respective ownership groups claim there are no plans to move.
Still, listening to Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu this week, you have to wonder how long he and business partner Vincent Viola can keep viable a franchise he admitted is bleeding money. Indeed, during an interview on TSN 1290 this week, Cifu said the Panthers lost $114,000 per day last season.
The Panthers are dead last in home attendance right now, averaging a league-worst 9,048 fans. Rock bottom came on Oct. 13, when the announced attendance of 7,311 for a game against the Ottawa Senators was the lowest in franchise history.
Part of that could be due to the decision by Cifu and Viola to eliminate discounted and complimentary tickets. Because of that, Cifu acknowleged that while attendance is down, the “net intake has not suffered.”
Even though ownership insisted in September that the Panthers would stay put, just how much money can they lose? It’s a question that has been asked in Arizona for years.
All the while, Vegas and it’s new MGM Arena await.
THE BIG THREE REUNITED
In a ceremony that has been long overdue, the great Guy Lapointe will have his banner hoisted to the rafters at the Bell Centre on Saturday prior to the Habs-Wild game. And, in a fitting gesture, his retired No. 5 will now dangle between Larry Robinson’s No. 19 and Serge Savard’s No. 18.
With that, the Big Three will be reunited again.
During the Habs dynasty of the 1970s — the best this ink-stained wretch has seen in his lifetime — the Lapointe-Robinson-Savard trio formed the most dominant blueline foundation in the sport. With elite scorers like Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt up front and Ken Dryden between the pipes, these Habs ruled the decade.
“This is quite an honor when you think about all the players who have worn the Canadiens jersey for over 100 years,” said Lapointe, now the Coordinator of Amateur Scouting for the Wild.
“When the banner is raised, it is your life and your career that you see scrolling. All the sacrifices, all these injuries, all the scars — and you’d still be willing to start over.”
During his 14 season career with the Habs, he was the king of practical jokes. His coup de grace: coating the palm of his hand with Vaseline, then firmly shaking the mitt of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who had come to the victorious Habs dressing room to congratulate the team.
He almost deserves to have his number retired just for that feat alone.
OLYMPIC GAINS OR PAINS?
Even former Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson can’t predict if NHLers will attend the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“The players want to go but it’s very difficult for the NHL,” said Nicholson, a vice-president with the International Ice Hockey Federation who now works with the Edmonton Oilers. “If everyone agrees to take some and leave some on the table, I think we’ll see NHL players in the future.”
Nicholson was speaking at the Association of National Olympic Committees inaugural awards in Bangkok, Thailand, where both the Canadian mens’ and womens’ squads won the “best team performance” categories for the 2014 Sochi Winter games.
“You never like it to go down to the wire, because everyone loses,” Nicholson told reporters regarding the decision involving NHL players. “The sooner you decide to go, the better it will be for them and for all of the countries participating.”
NHL players have participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998.