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Experts: Wings' Babcock a hot commodity for good reason

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former NHL coach and current ESPN analysts Barry Melrose saw something unique about the Red Wings this season.

And it's the reason, in his estimation, Mike Babcock is successful.

"That team works hard," Melrose said. "He gets all 23 guys on the roster to buy in. It doesn't matter who you are, whether it be a first-liner, a guy who rarely plays, a healthy scratch. He gets everyone pulling the same direction.

"That's not an easy thing in today's locker room. But you don't hear anything negative coming out of that Red Wings locker room, never have in all his years there."

Babcock, at the World Championships in the Czech Republic, has until until May 25 to examine coaching opportunities outside the organization. His contract with the Red Wings expires June 30.

He reportedly has talked with the Maple Leafs and Sabres, and is expected to talk with other teams during this week's tournament — the Flyers, Oilers, Sharks and Devils are among those teams interested.

Melrose isn't surprised a long list of teams could be making their pitch for Babcock.

"Mike is one of the best coaches out there, if not the best," Melrose said. "Joel Quenneville has done a great job in Chicago over the years, but you look at what Mike has done in Detroit, the fact they've been in the playoffs all 10 years he's been there, the success he's built upon in that organization."

Goaltender Manny Legace played for Babcock with the Red Wings in 2005-06, and saw several qualities that have made Babcock such a successful coach.

"The third- or fourth-line guys, they'll always play hard because they know they're replaceable," Legace said. "But it's getting the big guys, the scorers, the guys who have the six-year contracts for $10 million (per year) to work hard every single night, and he can do that.

"That's not an easy thing to do all the time. If those guys don't believe in you, or tune you out, it gets tough. But that hasn't happened here (with the Red Wings) over the years."

There's another area that impressed Legace about Babcock.

"He has the ability to find every little edge," Legace said. "We'd look at each other on the bench with just the small things, that extra little thing he might see, that would give us an edge over the other team. He'd always be looking for something that could help us win, and sometimes it could be such a small detail.

"It was impressive."

Said NBC analyst Pierre McGuire: "Mike Babcock is one of the most creative coaches in the National Hockey League. Coaching matters this time of year (in the playoffs). Mike Babcock presents all kinds of coaching matchup problems."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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