Former Detroit Red Wings forward Darren McCarty told the Detroit Free Press on Friday that Mike Babcock's disrespectful coaching style was the reason the team lost the Stanley Cup in 2009.
McCarty, 47, played 13 of his 15 NHL seasons with Detroit, first under head coaches Scotty Bowman and Dave Lewis from 1993-2004 during a period in which the Red Wings won three championships. Babcock was inserted as the team's head coach when the NHL returned from the 2004-05 lockout, at which point McCarty joined the Calgary Flames.
He returned to his old team for the 2007-08 season — and in an article published Saturday morning, McCarty told the newspaper he found things had changed under Babcock's command.
"And our (dressing) room worked in different ways and when I came back you could tell that things were different," McCarty said via the Free Press. "But the thing that didn't change was that guys played for each other."
Still one of the league's most talented rosters in 2007-08, the Red Wings beat Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins to win the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. When both teams returned for a rematch the next season, the Penguins won in seven games. McCarty said Detroit played well "in spite of" Babcock's demeanor during those seasons and missed the opportunity to take the Cup in back-to-back playoff runs because of his coaching.
"That's the key. In spite of him, right? In spite of him," he said. "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, who coached the Red Wings for 10 seasons until he left to take up behind the Toronto Maple Leafs bench, has come under fire for how he treats players in the weeks since his dismissal from his Leafs position — most notably by former Red Wings Chris Chelios and Johan Franzen, who both said Babcock verbally assaulted Franzen during a 2012 playoff game. McCarty echoed those sentiments, telling the Free Press that Babcock was a great coach but a cruel person.
"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 could "see what had started" with the Red Wings' culture under Babcock when he returned to the team for his final two seasons before retiring in December of 2009 and added that "it just gradually grew."
"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," McCarty said. "I can see how it got here because it was never handled. And that's the sport."
The Burnaby, B.C., native referenced how Franzen called Babcock "the worst person he's ever met" in an interview with Swedish publication Expressen on Dec. 2 and said that the currrently unemployed coach is "up there on my list, too," even though he said he and Babcock got along well.
"We're seriously having a 'Me Too' conversation in hockey, and that's different," he told the Free Press. "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."