Babcock ready to take on 'massive challenge' with Leafs

Toronto, ON ( - Mike Babcock didn't mince words during his introductory press conference as the new head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

The Leafs have reached the playoffs just once in 10 seasons since the end of the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 campaign. The storied franchise hasn't won a Stanley Cup since the days of the Original Six ended in 1967.

Babcock indicated Thursday that the rabid fans of Toronto shouldn't expect a championship any time soon.

"This is Canada's team and we need to put Canada's team back on the map," Babcock said Thursday. "This is going to be a long process. It's going to take time. I'm excited for this opportunity, (but) this is going to be a massive, massive challenge."

Babcock agreed to become the new Leafs coach on Wednesday, ending a 10-year run as the coach of the Detroit Red Wings. He guided the Red Wings to the 2008 Stanley Cup title and led them back to the Cup Finals the following year.

However, the Wings haven't been past the second round since the 2009 playoffs and lost in the first round in three of the past four years. That might sound like success to Toronto fans, but not to Babcock.

"I have a burning desire to win," he said. "I want to win in the end. I don't want to just get in the playoffs."

The Leafs reached the playoffs in the spring of 2013 and nearly rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against Boston in the first round, but blew a 4-1 lead in the third period of Game 7 and it's been downhill ever since.

Randy Carlyle was fired as head coach in January and Peter Horachek led the Leafs to a 30-44-8 record, better than only Buffalo in the Eastern Conference.

Brendan Shanahan, the Leafs president of hockey operations since April 2014, was charged with finding a new coach and made a splash once Babcock became available.

"The very first conversation (with Babcock) was difficult for me," said Shanahan, alluding to the fact that Babcock was honest about the Leafs' shortcomings. "It was a very truthful conversation."

Babcock was allowed to field offers from other teams despite being under contract to Detroit until the end of June. The signing of Babcock, who also spoke with Buffalo about its vacancy, will cost the Leafs a third-round pick in the next three years.

Overall, Babcock has a record of 527-285-138 in 12 seasons as an NHL head coach. Before his standout run in Detroit, he guided Anaheim for two seasons and led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season of 2002-03.

In addition to his NHL work, Babcock has guided Canada to success in international play. He is the only coach in history to earn consecutive gold medals at the Olympics with Canada's wins at Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.