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Babcock Era Ends in Anaheim

Times Staff Writer

Mike Babcock, who coached the Mighty Ducks to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, will not return next season and is in negotiations to become the Detroit Red Wings’ coach, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

Babcock’s Duck contract expired on June 30 and new General Manager Brian Burke offered him a one-year extension last week, at the same $400,000 he is believed to have made last season. Babcock had until midday today to decide whether to accept the offer.

While negotiating with Detroit, Babcock’s agent, Bobby Brett, called Burke and requested a longer contract and more money, and also asked for more time to make a decision. Those requests were turned down and Babcock informed the Ducks late Wednesday that he would not accept the one-year deal.

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Neither Burke nor Babcock could be reached for comment.

The Red Wings and Babcock are trying to work out a deal in which he would replace Dave Lewis, who was a Red Wing assistant coach for 15 seasons before being named head coach in 2002-03. Lewis’ contract also expired June 30.

After the Ducks offered Babcock the extension, Brett made inquiries with other teams and found interest in Detroit.

“We have had more than one team express interest in Mike, and we have continued those discussions right now,” Brett said.

The Red Wing hierarchy is familiar with Babcock. He coached Cincinnati from 2000 to 2002, when it was a farm team shared by the Ducks and Red Wings. Ken Holland, Detroit’s general manager, and Jim Nill, the team’s assistant general manager, are said to hold Babcock in high regard.

The Red Wings won three Stanley Cups in six seasons before Lewis became coach, but were eliminated in the first round in 2003 (by Babcock’s Ducks) and the second round in 2004.

Babcock had no experience as an NHL coach when he was hired before the 2002-03 season. Still, he led the Ducks into the Stanley Cup finals, losing to New Jersey in Game 7.

During that playoff run, the Ducks swept favored Detroit in the first round, shocking Red Wing fans. Lewis took heat for the loss; he was perceived as having been out-maneuvered by Babcock throughout the series.

Holland had said he would not negotiate a new deal with Lewis or his assistants until after a new collective bargaining agreement was in place.

Babcock, 42, is a popular coach within the Southern California hockey community, but his future with the Ducks was put in doubt when Burke was hired June 20. Burke said he wants the team to play a more offensive style. Babcock has preached a defense-first philosophy, partly out of necessity considering the team’s talent level.


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