Mike Babcock and the lure of unlimited power

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock addresses the media at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Babcock has one year left on his contract, and signing him to a longer-term deal might be an item on the franchise's list of things to do this offseason. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

If Mike Babcock played his cards in contract negotiations any closer to his vest, they’d be inside his chest cavity.

It’s impossible to read between the lines in interviews like the one he gave Craig Custance of ESPN because there are no lines. He’s saying nothing about his talks with the Detroit Red Wings, nothing about his wants and desires in his career.

This naturally leads to speculation about his future, and the math is pretty interesting. First, he’s in line to be one of the biggest free agents in the NHL – a guy with a proven, winning approach with a brand name. Second, if his eyes are on something more than being behind the bench, his general manager in Detroit, Ken Holland, signed on for four more seasons this summer.

As Elliotte Friedman wrote on Monday:

Among the biggest stories as we wait for the season to begin will be Mike Babcock’s future. One of the questions is, will someone out there offer him the one thing Detroit can’t—a Patrick Roy-style position with personnel control? Roy owns the Vice-President of Hockey Operations title in Colorado, with Joe Sakic, Craig Billington and Greg Sherman to make sure it works. Would such a setup tempt Babcock?

The situations in Toronto and Pittsburgh would seem ripe for that kind of offer. The former has Randy Carlyle and Dave Nonis dangling off a cliff. The latter has a stop-gap general manager and a first-year NHL coach. (Due respect to Mike Johnston, but if Babcock was interested, which way do you think Sidney Crosby casts his vote?)

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Like anyone as driven and successful as he’s been, Babcock has an ego. He’s accomplished all he needs to accomplish in Detroit. The Toronto opportunity would be the highest risk and the greatest reward were he to become the guy who leads them back to the Stanley Cup. The Pittsburgh opportunity would obviously give him a better foundation to build around in the short term.

The question for Babcock and any of his suitors: Is this setup the most desirable one for a coach? Because we haven’t yet seen how that Colorado paradigm handles adversity.