The “sixth man” is a mythical figure in the world of hockey.
He can take the form of the home crowd, equipment manager or biased official, but he’s generally seen to provide some extra advantage to his team.
In the case of the Detroit Red Wings, that figure is undoubtedly Mike Babcock.
This is Babcock’s ninth season as head coach of Detroit. He’s guided Detroit to the playoffs every season since joining the club and it appears that the current season will prove no different despite a rash of injuries to key players.
Detroit has been without star players likes Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson at several points over the course of the season. However, they’ve still found a way to succeed and they’ll likely make their 23rd consecutive appearance in the playoffs as a result.
Some of the credit must go to youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm, who’ve excelled in the absence of their veteran counterparts, but credit must also be given to Babcock, who’s been able to effectively manage those injuries and keep Detroit in the playoff picture.
Fans of Team Canada are well aware of Babcock’s talent behind the bench as he’s led the team to two consecutive gold medal finishes in the Winter Olympics. As well, Detroit fans are well aware of his talent: he brought the Stanley Cup home in 2008.
Having said that, it might surprise the casual fan to learn that Babcock has never won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. This is true despite the fact that Babcock recently passed Scotty Bowman (410) and is currently tied with Adams (413) for all-time wins by a Detroit coach. Babcock’s record stands at 413-199-90 heading into tonight’s matchup against the Montreal Canadiens.
It would be nice to see Babcock set that record tonight and beat the Canadiens in the process. He’s my pick to win the Jack Adams Award this year though he’ll probably get some competition from rookie head coach Patrick Roy from Colorado.
The big difference? Roy was handed a young team on the rise while Babcock was handed every single reason to write the current season off. That’s a true winner in my books.
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