Darren McCarty: Mike Babcock cost Detroit Red Wings the Stanley Cup in 2009
- Retired Detroit Red Wings forward Darren McCarty said Friday there was a strong current of disrespect from former Wings coach Mike Babcock that spared almost no one and cost the team the Stanley Cup in 2009.
- McCarty played for coaches Scotty Bowman and Dave Lewis from 1993 to 2004.
- He returned for the 2008-09 and ’08-’09 seasons, when Babcock was the coach.
- The Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Cup finals in ’08 and lost to the Pens in the finals the next season.
“And our (dressing) room worked in different ways and when I came back you could tell that things were different,” McCarty told the Free Press, “but the thing that didn’t change was that guys played for each other.
“That’s the key. In spite of him, right? In spite of him. And I learned that more getting into ’09 because we won in ’08 in spite of him and lost in ’09 because of him. That’s exactly the thing because he misused (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg and just because he’s stubborn and that was his way.”
- Babcock coached the Wings for 10 seasons until he took the Toronto Maple Leafs job in 2015.
- He was fired Nov. 20, after which a series of allegations about his roughshod coaching style and demeanor surfaced.
- Chief among those allegations was former Wings forward Johan Franzen, who said in an interview published Monday in Expressen, a newspaper in his native Sweden, that Babcock was “a terrible person, the worst I ever met.”
- Franzen said he was traumatized by Babcock’s verbal assault during Game 5 of the Wings’ 2012 playoff series against Nashville.
“I get the shivers when I think about it,” Franzen told Expressen. “That incident occurred against Nashville in the playoffs. It was coarse, nasty and shocking. But that was just one out of a hundred things he did. The tip of the iceberg.”
- Former Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press on Monday that no player ever came to him and accused Babcock of abusive behavior.
- But McCarty, who said he got along with Babcock, wasn’t surprised to hear Franzen’s story.
- Even though he considered Babcock a masterful coach, McCarty said he spared no one from his harsh criticism.
“Preparation, X’s and O’s, practice, just like the guys say, there’s nobody better,” McCarty said. “It’s unbelievable. But then the ego and the disrespect for people. And it’s not just the Johan Franzens and the Chris Chelioses. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s a personal thing. So it could be the one who changes the garbage and he doesn’t change it properly or whatever. … So all that stuff that happened with Mule, it doesn’t surprise me because I could see how he was as a person.”
- McCarty said he grew up playing for tough coaches who yelled at him and criticized him.
- But he said Babcock’s manner of berating players and questioning personal aspects like their lifestyle crossed a line.
“I could see what had started when I left (after 2004) and it just gradually grew,” McCarty said. “That’s all it is. And it festered and it festered and it got out of control and the disrespect got out of control and now you’re in 2019 with everybody else saying things. I can see how it got here because it was never handled. And that’s the sport.”
“We’re seriously having a ‘Me Too’ conversation in hockey, and that’s different,” McCarty said. “But it’s about the respect, and bottom line is be kind and don’t be a (jerk). And (Babcock) can’t do either one as a person.”
- McCarty admitted it was hard to ascribe intent to some of Babcock’s more passive forms of perceived disrespect, such as making Mike Modano a healthy scratch in his final NHL season, resulting in Modano finishing his Hall of Fame career with 1,499 games.
“I’m not going to sit here and say he did it on purpose,” McCarty said. “But I’m sitting here entertaining the question of it.”
- Modano was 40 when he retired in 2011. And while missed 41 games that season with a wrist injury, he returned to health in late February and didn’t miss a game until the healthy scratch on April 3 against Minnesota, with four games remaining in the regular season.
- Modano and Babcock discussed the decision several times that day.
“It was a good understanding,” Modano said at the time. “He’s the coach. You can’t let it bother you. You’ve just got to come back and keep working and keep trying to prepare for next week. I think that’s the bigger picture here. It would have been nice, but I suppose I might have to come back next year.”
- A similar incident involves former Wings defenseman Mike Commodore, who has engaged in a long, consistent and profane Twitter tirade against Babcock, whom he accused of trying to damage his reputation and needlessly making him a healthy scratch.
- The Toronto Sun last week reported an incident in 2016-17, when Babcock had then-rookie Mitch Marner make a list ranking his hardest-working teammates, then told the players who had been listed at the bottom.
- In the season opener this year against the Ottawa Senators, Babcock made respected veteran Jason Spezza a healthy scratch against his longtime former team.
- It was the same in Detroit, McCarty said, where no one was safe from Babcock’s disdain.
“When you read the (Franzen) article,” McCarty said, “and Swedes are the most nonthreatening and nicest people, and he says he’s the worst person he ever met, and you know what? He’s up there on my list, too, as far as most egotistical person but not a nice person in a lot of ways at the end of the day. And that’s from somebody who got along with him.”
Sources & Credits: Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press