Maple Leafs beat out Sabres for Babcock

The Maple Leafs have won the #BabcockWatch. Amidst much speculation, TSN’s Darren Dreger confirmed that the Leafs will hire top coaching free agent Mike Babcock as their new coach. The official press conference is tomorrow.

It came down to the Sabres and Leafs. Buffalo was all in on Babcock who spent the past decade coaching the Red Wings. He had lots of success guiding them to a Stanley Cup in ’07-08 and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final the following year where they fell just short of repeating losing to the Penguins by a goal in Game 7. Once the Wings were eliminated in seven by the Lightning in the first round, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion he’d leave. He finished 458-223-105 posting a .649 winning percentage in 10 seasons as Red Wings coach.

The past 24 hours while the Blackhawks needed triple overtime to defeat the Ducks, rumors intensified on Babcock. TSN’s Aaron Ward tweeted that Babcock would not return to Detroit. What followed was chaos as to where he would wind up.

What followed was confirmation by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie that the Sabres were out leaving some speculation that maybe there was a “secret team” involved like the Blues or Sharks. Apparently, Babcock saw only green in a return home to Toronto. He’s from Ontario and will be introduced by former pupil Brendan Shanahan tomorrow at 11 AM.  Not only is Babcock taking over for a reported eight years, $50 million. But apparently he might be bringing former Lightning coach Guy Boucher to his staff as an assistant. Jeez.

For the Sabres, they swung and missed. Obviously, it hurts somewhat. But if Babcock thinks going home will be easy coaching the Leafs, good luck. He might want to pack some extra golf clubs. Buffalo still owns the number two overall pick in next month’s highly anticipated draft where the Oilers are expected to select Connor McDavid with the number one pick. The Sabres will get a great consolation prize in prized Boston University prospect Jack Eichel. The Leafs pick fourth.

With Babcock off the market, Sabres GM Tim Murray continues his coaching search. The top candidates are Dan Bylsma, Paul MacLean and Luke Richardson per Sabres correspondent Joe Yerdon.

Richardson is the Senators AHL coach at Binghamton. He’s the favorite due to his familiarity with Murray. The former defenseman has never coached an NHL team. He’s 46. Obviously, Bylsma and MacLean have experience. It all depends on what Murray’s plan is. In a rebuild, it might make more sense to hire a young coach who has the patience to deal with mistakes from young players and develop. It doesn’t always work as the Oilers discovered with Dallas Eakins. They just hired former Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan in more low key news yesterday signing him for five years.

For Buffalo, finishing second is nothing new. However, just maybe it’ll be better for the franchise over the long haul. It’s now Murray’s move.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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