Mike Babcock on what he's learned about coaching in the NHL: 'You don't need to create storms'

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Justin Cuthbert
·3 min read
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TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 10: Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock looks on from the bench at an NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on October 10, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
Former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock revealed what he learned about coaching in the NHL since his tenure ended. (Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Babcock continued to break his silence this week in an appearance on the Cam and Strick Podcast with Cam Janssen and Andy Strickland, in what might be considered his most candid interview since being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The prolific hockey coach with the now somewhat spoiled reputation covered a wide ranch of topics between strokes during a golf round shared with another legendary bench boss, Ken Hitchcock. And whether it was the setting, the hosts, the line of questioning, the fact that he was next up on the tee, or the simple fact that he's tired of being asked questions about his failures and misconduct, Babcock seemed to be a little more revealing this time around, in what he declared would be the last time he would address the black cloud hovering above his head.

Among the interesting tidbits, Babcock said that he was "wasn't sure" that he and Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan still had a relationship, made sure to again defend the decision to sit Jason Spezza on opening night last season against the Ottawa Senators, and spoke about his work at NBC as well as the discussions he's had with teams about potentially returning to the NHL.

But the most interesting topic remained his handling of players.

Like he did previously with The Athletic and on NBC, Babcock staunchly defended his actions across nearly two decades in the NHL.

"Am I happy with the job I have done and how I have treated people over my career? Yes. Emphatic yes," Babcock said. "Have I ever crossed the line? Have I ever said something in the wrong tone? Have I approached something wrong? Yeah. But was my intent ever to hurt anybody? Intention is a huge part of decision-making. No. One hundred percent, equivocally no. So I don't worry about those things."

Babcock did admit that the truths, criticisms, and accusations do "bug" him when he sees it affecting his family, and more specifically his three children, but that he remains proud of coaching career.

Several times during the interview the topic of re-surfacing in the NHL did come up and Babcock did admit that his history will shape his coaching methods moving forward. However, that self-evaluation isn't because of the issues dogging him at current moment, but because sharpening the knife, or skills, is the responsibility of every hockey coach.

So it was interesting to be provided a window into how Babcock believes he can better handle situations in the event he does return to the NHL.

Here's what he said about the lessons he would take with him in the event he does re-surface:

"I am a life-long learner, even now. I'm trying to get better at all the things I do — be a better husband, be a better parent, better water-skier, better down-hill skier, better hunter, better golfer," Babcock said. "But the bottom line is, in today's world with social media, I think there are things you need to learn about handling those situations to keep yourself out of storms. You don't need to create storms for yourself. In saying all that though, the best coaches coach their players.

"You know what love is, fellas? Love isn't blowing smoke up somebody's butt. Love is telling the truth," he added. "People that don't care about you just keep letting you get away with stuff. And in the end you don't become what you wanted to be."

Interesting.

Can Babcock be Babcock without creating those storms?

Perhaps one day we'll find out.

Oh, and if you aren't suffering from Babcock fatigue, check out the full interview on the Cam and Strick Podcast.

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