McKenzie: Babcock extension makes sense

Bob McKenzie

10/11/2010 3:54:10 PM

You could say that Detroit Red Wing coach Mike Babcock was holding his breath when Pavel Datsyuk dropped the gloves Friday night with Anaheim's Corey Perry.

"All I was thinking was, 'Don't break your hand, Pav,'" Babcock said.

When the fight first started, Babcock wasn't overly concerned.

"Pav is so strong," Babcock said. "He's a hard guy, he's not backing down from anyone, but I just figured he might hold on. He would be fine. Then he started to have some fun. Then he started to throw some punches. That's when I started holding my breath."

Once Datsyuk was safely in the penalty box, after having done a more than credible job in the fight with Perry, Babcock noted the fans in Joe Louis Arena showed their appreciation for Datsyuk's foray into fisticuffs by chanting his name. Loudly and with gusto.

"I've been in Detroit, what, six years?" he said. "The only time I've heard a (Red Wing) player's name chanted like that is Ozzie (netminder Chris Osgood) a lot of times after a big save and once with Stevie Y(zerman) when he was jumping over the boards to take a shootout shot against Nashville, so that tells you something right there. It was really something."

And it goes without saying Babcock is thrilled Datsyuk emerged unscathed, although the Red Wing coach has some pretty good job security now regardless of who gets injured.

The Red Wings announced today Babcock has signed a four-year extension, above and beyond this season, the last on Babcock's old contract. The best guesstimates are that Babcock's deal is worth around $2M per year -- there is no salary disclosure for coaches -- and it likely makes him, along with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who was recently extended by the Blackhawks, as the highest paid coaches in the NHL.

Before committing to the extension, Babcock talked to the other NHL coaches with tremendous tenure in one city -- Lindy Ruff in Buffalo and Barry Trotz in Nashville. Babcock wanted to get a feel from them for how they felt about staying in one place for so long, the challenges of keeping things fresh and making sure the players don't get tired of hearing the same voice or that if they do, how to keep things moving forward.

Babcock had no real desire to leave Detroit, especially since it's arguably the finest organization in the entire NHL and his kids are at the age where the last thing they want to do right now is pull up stakes and move. But he's also got a lot of pride and doesn't just want to be one of the coaches with the most tenure in one city, he wants to be the best.

Signing the extension in Detroit will give him a chance to do all that and then some.