New Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he expects the job of taking over the team to be filled with “pain, fun and a journey.”
Babcock signed an eight-year, $50 million (U.S.) contract with the Maple Leafs after passing up a chance to continue his successful reign with the Detroit Red Wings or moving to another team bidding for his services.
Babcock takes over a team that has only made the playoffs once in the past decade and in the middle of a rebuild.
“If you think there’s no pain coming, there’s pain coming,” the 52-year-old coach warned as he was introduced to the media Thursday.
Babcock’s signing upset many people in Buffalo, with the Sabres reportedly coming close to hiring him. It appeared until the last minute Wednesday that he would end up in Buffalo, raising expectations there.
One journalist asked if he lied to the Sabres. But Babcock said he just didn’t know until the last minute what his decision would be.
There is nothing in his contract that gives him authority over player personnel, although president Brendan Shanahan said Babcock will be a part of player decisions.
Shanahan is still looking for a general manager, but he said the Leafs are in good shape without one heading into the NHL draft next month.
The new Leaf coach said he accepted the job in Toronto because he wanted the challenge, and reiterated that it will be a long process.