Until Mike Babcock signs a contract extension with Detroit, there's going to be plenty of speculation about his future as Red Wings head coach and where exactly he'll wind up next.
That speculation kicked into full gear this week after the Maple Leafs fired Randy Carlyle, and TSN's Darren Dreger went on the radio in Winnipeg the other day to discuss Babcock rumors.
The word "Philadelphia" came up.
We keep linking Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs because that's what we in the media speculate. But let's not assume there won't be other teams interested in Mike Babcock as an unrestricted free agent coach as well, who perhaps are willing to pay [$4 million or more per year].
Do you think Philadelphia is thrilled with the job Craig Berube is doing right now? Things are going sour in Philadelphia. It's not all on the coach. But there's another team that would like to take a swing, I'm sure, at Babcock if he leaves Detroit.
But if he leaves Detroit, and there's reason to believe that he will -- he hasn't signed his extension yet -- then he's going to command top dollar. Top dollar, in my world, is going to be somewhere around $4 million. But could it reach as high as five? I guess it depends on how eager the suitors, be it Toronto, Philadelphia, or someone else, are willing to spend and how eager they are to get him."
A scenario where Babcock comes to Philadelphia would require a few things:
- Craig Berube would have to be fired by the Flyers.
- Babcock would have to decide to test the open market instead of signing a contract with the Red Wings. This market basically works just as it does with players, in that Babcock's current contract doesn't expire until the summer and he would not be able to field offers from other teams until then.
- The Flyers would have to be willing to out-bid other teams for Babcock's services.
- Mike Babcock would have to want to come to Philadelphia.
Timing is a concern
The first two issues there speak to timing, in that the timing would have to be perfect.
Taking the big leap and assuming that Babcock steps onto the market and the Flyers do indeed fire Berube, what if the Flyers fire Chief in mid-to-late April and Detroit goes deep in the playoffs? Babcock doesn't explore the open market until June, and while the Flyers are waiting around for Babcock, they miss out on other highly qualified candidates. Todd McLellan (currently with San Jose), Kevin Dineen (currently with Chicago), Dan Bylsma (currently unemployed), etc. Claude Julien's name has even come up recently as the Bruins have scuffled and made a change in their ownership structure.
I can't imagine the Flyers passing up on somebody like McLellan, for example, just to wait for Babcock, who could ultimately decide to go somewhere else or stay in Detroit. So the timing would have to work out really perfectly.
The Flyers might not want to spend the money
It sounds crazy to think that the Ed Snider-run Philadelphia Flyers might not want to spend money. But the Flyers already spend more on their (highly mediocre) roster than ... well, any other team in the league. Adding $4 million of $5 million on top of that for a coach, in an era where coaches aren't necessarily even all that vital to Cup success? (That's an arguable point, of course.)
Comcast-Spectacor just might not want to do it. Maybe they do, and maybe Ed Snider still has all the control and it doesn't matter what the Comcast suits say. But consider this bit from the Philadelphia Daily News on new Comcast-Spectacor chief operating officer David A. Scott and his vision for the team:
Scott's team of executives from the Comcast Cable division have taken a long look at just about every facet of the business. ... It is no secret, though, that Scott and [new chief financial offer Gary] Rostick believe the Flyers could be more profitable. According to Forbes Magazine, the Flyers were seventh in the NHL with a $136 million operating revenue last season but just 14th in operating income (profit) with $11 million.
Part of that is due to the Flyers' hockey operations payroll. The hard salary cap is designed to help maximize profit through fixed spending. Under Holmgren, the Flyers exceeded the salary cap every season in real dollars and are committed to long-term payments for buyouts to remove disastrous deals.
Former goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will receive $1.64 million per year through 2027. Deals like that hurt the company's bottom line, without question.
As long as Ed Snider is chairman, Hextall and the Flyers will not be asked to cut back on spending on the hockey club.
There's a lot to unpack here -- and a lot of it deals with what the Flyers might face once Ed Snider is gone, which is a big ole conversation for another day -- but the overall point is that there's a lot of fat to be trimmed from the Flyers organization.
Things probably wont change drastically with the Flyers' finances or their philosophy in the next six months or a year, and therefore things might not change in time for it to impact a potential coaching search this summer. But this is something to chew on.
Would Babcock even want to coach here?
Dreger reported on TSN television earlier in the week that Babcock doesn't want a project, and that's one reason he wouldn't want to go to the Maple Leafs. Would he see the Flyers as an equally difficult project?
The Red Wings are closer today to winning a Stanley Cup than the Flyers are, and how fast the Flyers get back to contending status is dependent on development of young players and Ron Hextall's ability to mold this roster with speed and precision amidst deep salary cap issues.
None of that is necessarily predictable, and if Babcock really doesn't want a project to work on with his new team, it'd take a lot of work for Hextall to convince him that he won't have a long-term project on his hands here.
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It all adds up to a lot of big time question marks, and frankly it's a long shot that it all works out in a way that ends with Mike Babcock coaching the Philadelphia Flyers. So don't get your hopes up.