Mike Babcock pounds the pavement with a daily run. He always has been one of NHL's fittest coaches.
But even the in-shape Detroit Red Wings
head coach must feel fatigued these days. Besides the red winged-wheel hat he wears at the helm of the struggling Red Wings, the 24/7 HBO series for the Winter Classic demands his time as has his role as Canadian Olympic team head coach.
Babcock and Canadian executive director Steve Yzerman are 17 days away from naming their 25-player roster for Sochi, but Babcock claims he never catches himself watching or admiring an opponent who may line up for Canada.
"I understand who pays me," Babcock said. "I don't have any problem figuring out that at all."
So when does Babcock fit in time to think about the Olympics
? When he drives to and from his suburban Detroit home to Joe Louis Arena.
When he gets behind the wheel of his car, he puts on his Bluetooth device and starts yacking about the game and Canadian candidates to other coaches on his Olympic staff (Lindy Ruff, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Julien and Ralph Krueger), Yzerman or another member of the management team (Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe, Doug Armstrong and Peter Chiarelli).
"The one thing, when you're playing other teams, you are always aware of who the good players are," Babcock said before his Red Wings visited the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada
. "That's your job and you have an understanding of that.
Anytime you get an opportunity to talk to good hockey people, and I consider all the people on the management staff and the coaching staff good hockey people, you have a chance to learn something. It benefits the Red Wings."
Impressive coaching career
Babcock has enjoyed plenty of success as a head coach in the past 20 years. He's won the University Cup with the Lethbridge Pronghorns in 1993-94, steered Canada to world junior gold three years later and Canada to a world championship title in 2004, won a Stanley Cup with the 2007-08 Red Wings, and coached Canada to Olympic gold four years ago in Vancouver.
But coaching teams in short-term events like the world junior, world championship or Olympics is much different than coaching in the NHL.
"Obviously, you don't know the players as good as you know the ones on your own team," Babcock said. "You can't get [the players] as much ice time [in games]. You're a work in progress more than say at playoff time in the NHL.
"It's different representing your country. It's a special, special thing that happens every four years. Anybody who gets a chance to get involved whether you're a therapist or whether you're an Olympian or whether you're a medallist, it's a special time."
When asked how much of the Canadian team has been decided on at this point, Babcock joked that nothing will be decided until Jan. 7 when Canada's roster will be announced
. But the head coach stated he will have plenty of input in roster decisions.
"I'm sure I will have lots of input," he said. "But there are four other guys on the management team who will have lots of input.
"The way we do it as a coaching staff is we basically have one voice. We get together and gather the information [on conference calls] and then I'll get on the call with [the management team]. As it gets closer with the final decisions you'll have more input.
"It's great to have this fantasy roster, but then when you get down to special teams and who has a role, that's when the coach has to get involved."
The Red Wings could have as many as nine or 10 performing in Sochi. Four years ago, they struggled before the Olympics and were in ninth place in the West before the league shut down for Vancouver. Detroit needed a 14-3-2 finish post Olympics to lasso a spot in the postseason.
Four years later, the Red Wings are struggling again at just 2-5-2 in their last seven outings. But their poor play as of late, Babcock says, has nothing to do with the distraction of the Olympics. It has more to do with injuries.
Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard, Daniel Alfredsson, Justin Abdelkader, Stephen Weiss and Henrik Zetterberg, who could return next week, have all missed significant time this season.
"We haven't been as good a team since we lost all our people," Babcock said. "I'm not trying to make excuses, but we just haven't been as good a team."
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