Among the three reported finalists for the Capitals head coaching job, there is one who comes with quite a bit more baggage than the others. Mike Babcock may be the biggest name out on the coaching market, but he is also one of the most controversial given how his team with the Toronto Maple Leafs ended.
What kind of a coach would Babcock be in Washington? Would he really be as controversial as he seems? Could he be the right choice to lead the Caps to a Stanley Cup push in their final remaining yeas of Cup contention?
That's what we wanted to find out.
Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston joined the Capitals Talk Podcast on Thursday to talk all things Babcock and gave some great insight into just who the man is and why he could be a perfect fit in Washington.
"I think that this is the only type of team at this stage of Mike Babcock's career he'd even consider," Johnston said. "He's won a Stanley Cup, he's won Olympic gold medals, he's had all kinds of success, just like the Capitals players. They've all done this before and they have a very clear mandate. I don't know how long their Cup window is going to stay open, but we know it's getting towards the end of that time and so every year it's going to be critical for the Capitals to try to win another Cup and I think that's the way Mike Babcock will coach."
If the only thing here to consider was his resume, then yes, Babcock certainly would be one of if not the best available coach. But controversy followed after Babcock's dismissal in Toronto over his coaching methods, including the now-infamous story on asking a rookie Mitch Marner to rank the Maple Leafs players based on who worked the hardest and then shared that list with the players.
While much of the feeling regarding Babcock was negative after his departure, Johnston, as someone who covered the Leafs during Babcock's tenure, had a different take.
"There's a bit of a media beast in Toronto and some things I think get taken too far or aren't totally accurate," Johnston said. "This is how I view Mike Babcock's tenure in Toronto: he took over a team, they finished last in his first season, dead last in the league which was the plan. They were rebuilding. They drafted Auston Matthews. He then took a very young team to the playoffs the very next year and then the next two seasons after that the Leafs were fifth and sixth overall in the entire NHL in the regular season. They lost in the first round both times to Boston, but I see a guy who delivered on his job."
Johnston added, "I think that the way that [Babcock] likes to coach, he's very upfront, he's not afraid of a little confrontation. I think that works better with an older team who understand what he's doing and why he's doing it. I do see a great fit [in Washington]."
With only a few years remaining before their veteran core begins to rapidly decline, the Caps need to find success fast. Babcock, meanwhile needs a team already set up for success.
"I don't see him taking over a young team and entering into another five-year process to try to get to a Cup," Johnston said. "I think it has to be a situation with urgency. To me, this is a perfect marriage, Mike Babcock and this roster."
To hear the full interview with Johnston, check out the latest episode of the Capitals Talk podcast.