The Sharks are one of a handful of teams in the mix for the services of Mike Babcock, according to multiple reports on Sunday, as the club continues its search for a new head coach.
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Sharks are “scheduled to speak” with Babcock at some point this week, and the expectation is that Babcock “wants to decide his future by Wednesday.”
A source informed CSNCalifornia.com that Babcock, 52, initiated the upcoming discussions with the Sharks, and the Sharks were obviously receptive to the offer.
Babcock, the longtime Detroit coach who led Team Canada to gold in the last two Olympics and the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008, could still return to the Red Wings. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues have also spoken with Babcock, according to a report on mlive.com. Toronto and Buffalo have coaching vacancies, while St. Louis still employs Ken Hitchcock, whose status is uncertain.
Babcock is close with former Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, who served under Babcock as an assistant in Detroit before taking the head coaching job in San Jose prior to the 2008-09 season.
[RELATED: Report: McLellan likely to land in Edmonton]
The news is a bit unexpected in that Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, in rare public comments on May 8, admitted that “cost in general is an issue” regarding the team. Babcock could command as much as $5 million annually, and will likely be the highest-paid coach in the league wherever he lands.
Furthermore, Babcock and McLellan remain tight. McLellan indicated that he views the Sharks as in the midst of a prolonged rebuild, and if Babcock agrees with his former protégée, the Sharks would be an unlikely destination.
Still, Babcock – known as one of the more honest quotes among NHL coaches – was highly complimentary of the Sharks’ core during a visit to SAP Center in the second half of the 2014-15 season.
“To me, [Logan] Couture, [Joe] Pavelski, [Patrick] Marleau and [Joe] Thornton are all stars in the league," Babcock said on Feb. 26. "[Brent] Burns and [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic are stars in the league. The goaltending has been solid for years. It’s hard. The league is hard.”
He’s also always been a supporter of Marleau, and was the driving force behind adding him to the Canadian Olympic team in 2014 in what was a bit of a surprise at the time. When asked if Marleau was still an elite player on Feb. 26, Babcock replied: “I do, for sure. Patty is a good, good man. If you don’t want him, just call us.”
Marleau is coming off of his worst offensive season since 2007-08, with just 19 goals and 57 points in 82 games. He and Thornton, who both turn 36 this summer, are signed for the next two seasons and possess full no-trade clauses that they aren’t likely to waive - although general manager Doug Wilson is already on record as saying he won’t ask either one to do that.
Babcock expressed concerns about the Red Wings' aging core, which includes Pavel Datsyuk (37 in July) and Henrik Zetterberg (35 in October), shortly after they were eliminated in the first round by Tampa Bay.
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If Babcock and the Sharks are not a match, there are still several other candidates, including Peter DeBoer, who will reportedly speak with the Sharks for a second time. DeBoer was most recently the coach of the New Jersey Devils, and was an assistant under McLellan at the IIHF World Championships, which concluded on Sunday with Canada winning the gold medal.
While DeBoer took the fall for the Devils' struggles in December, the prevailing opinion is that he didn't have a good enough roster to compete. Recent Devils additions have included former Sharks Ryane Clowe (who played in just 13 games in 2014-15 due to multiple concussions), and Marty Havlat and Scott Gomez, who were both ineffective during their stints in San Jose.
Former Sharks assistant coach Trent Yawney is another potential candidate. Yawney is currently an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks, who are still playing in the NHL's Western Conference finals against Chicago.
Dan Bylsma, Dave Lowry and Randy Carlyle are three more names that have surfaced as potential replacements for McLellan.
The timeline has also apparently moved up. Although Wilson was hesitant to say that the Sharks would have a coach in place in time for the NHL draft in late June, according to one source, the Sharks are now likely to have a new coach within "the next few weeks."
McLellan will likely be named the Edmonton Oilers head coach this week, according to multiple reports. The 47-year-old served as the Sharks head coach for the last seven seasons before mutually parting ways with the club on April 20.