TORONTO (Reuters) - Newly-acquired Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock expressed a burning desire to snap the franchise’s Stanley Cup drought but the only thing he promised the team’s success-starved fan base in the near future is pain.
Babcock, speaking during his 35-minute introductory news conference on Thursday, sounded intent on a patient and long-term rebuilding plan that he hopes will ultimately deliver the team their first Stanley Cup championship since 1967.
“I never came here to make the playoffs. I came here to be involved in a Cup process,” said Babcock, who spent the last 10 seasons coaching the Detroit Red Wings.
”I love to win. I have a burning desire to win but I also want to win in the end. I don’t just want to get in the playoffs.
“I got a big picture in mind ... and that’s where we’re going. But if you think there is no pain coming, there is pain coming.”
Unlike the Detroit team he led to 10 consecutive playoff berths and a Stanley Cup championship in 2008, the Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons and are in the early stages of a rebuilding process.
Babcock will have plenty of time to help restore pride to a storied franchise, having signed an eight-year contract worth $50 million on Wednesday that makes him the National Hockey League’s highest-paid coach.
“Whether you believe it or not, I feel this is Canada’s team and we need to put Canada’s team back on the map,” said the 52-year-old Canadian.
Babcock comes with a winning pedigree, having also led Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014, and a world championship in 2004, making him the only coach to have captured ice hockey’s three most prestigious championships.
But he was adamant that success in Toronto would take time and that the Maple Leafs, who finished with the NHL’s fourth-worst record last season, needs to focus more on scouting, drafting and analytics in order to assemble a contending team.
“We have to create an environment that is safe for the players. And what I mean by that is when you win every day it becomes pretty safe for the players,” said Babcock.
“Right now it’s a hard spot, it’s tough, but we are going to change that and it’s going to take time.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes