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Pressing Playoff Question: Will this be Babcock’s last waltz with the Wings?

Detroit Red Wings v Minnesota Wild

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Hannah Foslien

If you went into the season thinking that the Detroit Red Wings didn’t have a hope of making the playoffs for the 24th straight time, it turns out you had some noteworthy company.

“To be honest with you, July 5th last year I thought we had no chance to get in the playoffs,” Red wings coach Mike Babcock said, per “So for us to be in the playoffs and have an opportunity here, we’re thrilled and our young guys have come a long way.”

That’s an awfully telling statement and it might offer a big clue about Babcock’s future. Ultimately, no one with the possible exception of Babcock himself knows if he’s going to re-sign in Detroit, but the fact the team couldn’t get a deal done before the season left open the possibility he could leave. His standing as one of, if not the best, coach in the business is clear, so what was the road block?

Did Detroit simply not offer Babcock enough money over the summer? Bob McKenzie did suggest in November that Babcock was presumably interested in becoming the league’s first coach to make $3 million annually, which might be an issue in Detroit given that Red Wings GM Ken Holland reportedly makes less than that. Speaking of Holland, was his relationship with Babcock an issue, at least when it came to their respective visions for the future of the franchise? Was it simply a matter of Babcock wanting to keep his options open, perhaps uncertain himself about what direction he wanted to take?

That last possibility is particularly intriguing as there’s no shortage of teams that would love to recruit Babcock. Toronto would likely be interested in flexing its considerable financial muscle to lure him over. The Maple Leafs might not be the most promising team at the moment, but he would have an opportunity to be a hero in the huge hockey market (then again, look how well that worked out for Brian Burke, and all the others who tried). Or maybe he would like to take the reins in Pittsburgh, depending on how the Penguins do in the playoffs and coach Mike Johnston’s standing with the team by the summer. He’s already led Sidney Crosby to a pair of Olympic gold medals and maybe he could coach the superstar to a Stanley Cup championship next. Or perhaps he’ll be enticed by the Philadelphia Flyers and their top-tier core of young forwards, not to mention an owner that doesn’t mind spending money.

Speaking of youth, how would Babcock like to be the guy that leads “generational” talent Connor McDavid? We don’t know where McDavid will go yet, but that’s another option that might be available to him. We do know the Buffalo Sabres need a new coach.

Compared to all the potential alternatives, Detroit might not have measured up last summer given what he thought of the team. But that might actually be good news for the Red Wings, because it sounds like they’ve pleasantly surprised him over the course of the 2014-15 campaign. Has it been enough to tip the scales in Detroit’s favor? Is that question even in line with how he goes about determining his plans? We can’t know now, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Related: Mrazek to start Game 1 for Red Wings