The Toronto Maple Leafs fired the highest paid head coach in the league in Mike Babcock. Does that change how the New Jersey Devils might look at their situation behind the bench?
If you went into this season and asked who might be the first head coach fired, there’s a lot of names that would come before the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mike Babcock. Even as soon as October 20th, Babcock wasn’t on the board for first coach fired bets. Jon Cooper was on the board. Todd Reirden was on the board (which is kind of insane). John Tortorella was on the board. Even New Jersey Devils coach John Hynes was on the board (at the time, he was third).
With such a surprising situation happening north of the border, could this change how the Devils think about their situation behind the bench?
The Devils were another team that came into this season with a lot of expectations that they aren’t living up to. Obviously, it is still early, and the Devils did not dig themselves out of a hole they could not get out of, but the same can be said about the Maple Leafs. 20 games in, the Devils find themselves six points out of a playoff spot with just about everyone to jump past. The Leafs, meanwhile, are only two points out (with much larger expectations).
The biggest reason to keep Hynes behind the bench even if hypothetically the Devils didn’t want to is that there’s nobody out there to replace him. All the major head coaching candidates are either on their teams or looking to catch on to a short-term opportunity.
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Now, Mike Babcock is available. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, and someone who has proved to bring teams to the playoffs year after year. Sure, he couldn’t beat the Boston Bruins in the postseason, but the Devils can’t beat the Bruins either.
It’s clear the Devils are not playing up to their talent level. Issues with Cory Schneider haven’t helped, and Taylor Hall‘s contract status also isn’t helping matters. These are things that are out of Hynes control obviously. This is more Ray Shero’s issue. Still, Shero could make it about the coach in the long run.
The problem here is Babcock is not going to be New Jersey’s next coach. Babcock was just paid $6.25 million per season on an eight-year deal. We just cannot see Josh Harris and the rest of Devils ownership paying a coach more than 90 percent of the players.
With Babcock not really on the market for the Devils, there isn’t a lot of great options to replace Hynes if the Devils felt it necessary. So, basically we don’t see a great replacement out there, even with Babcock now on the market. Maybe this changes the thought process of coaches across the league, but we don’t see this changing the thought process for the Devils or Ray Shero.