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Blunt Babcock hits back

Makes no apologies for hard-nosed coaching style

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DETROIT -- After the Red Wings failed to sign one of the top-flight defencemen from this year's free agent class, many speculated one reason could be free agents are turned off by Mike Babcock's hard-nosed coaching style.

Babcock responded to such talk on Detroit Sports 105.1 Friday -- and he didn't mince words.

"Maybe they don't want to come because Mike Babcock has a one-year contract," he said. "The way I look at it here, if you don't want to be coached, don't come here. If you want to be pushed to be the best that you can be, that's what we do here. You know what? The proof is in the pudding."

"If (the Red Wings) are concerned about (free agents not liking him), then I should coach somewhere else."

Babcock, the longest-tenured coach among Detroit's four major pro sports teams, led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came one game away from winning another in 2009. He also coached the Canadian men's hockey team to gold medals in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.

So he certainly has the pedigree of a top-flight NHL coach. And despite being on a one-year contract, Babcock still likes being in Detroit and says his relationship with general manager Ken Holland is "second to none."

"Am I warm and cuddly every day? I am with my family," Babcock said. "I think I care a lot about my players. When you care about people, you make them do it right. When you don't, and there's lots of coaches that don't, then their teams don't do it right and they don't have success.

"We just have the hard meetings. We get it out front. Does it piss people off once in a while? Absolutely. But it also leads to behavioral changes and getting things better. So you know what, I'm not apologizing for that stuff at all. I like to be treated honest.

"I think it's easy to stand on the sidelines and second-guess everything all the time and I think that's what you get paid to do. The more controversy you can create in the media, the more they like you, and the more bloggers we have, the more controversy we have. But that's all part of the sport. What I've found is if the people in the hockey department make the decisions, we're employed. When we start looking for answers in the media, then we'll be in the media soon."

Babcock also said about Dan Cleary, who re-signed with the Red Wings earlier this month: "Last year, he didn't bring anything. But the year before, he was a key component, leadership-wise, forechecking-wise... We had a decision to make. We signed Dan to what I consider a great contract. Hardly any cap hit whatsoever. What we're betting on is he's training with (Mike Barwis)... We've been told that (Cleary's) knees have really come on. If he's on one leg like he was last year, he can't play on our team. If he's on two legs, he can help us win."

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2014 B16

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