In the days and weeks ahead, you'll read various stories and hear numerous theories about why Mike Babcock rejected the Sabres' offer to become their head coach. In the end, he obviously wasn't comfortable with the situation. He saw flashing red lights. He sensed trouble ahead. He felt stranger danger.
It wasn't the money. The Sabres were willing to hand him enough to make him and his family comfortable for life. He was set to become the highest-paid coach in the NHL no matter where he landed. Buffalo was prepared to pay him as much, or more, as any team interested.
Ego? Every coach has one, but that's not what was driving him. If he were egotistical, it would have made more sense to come to a place like Buffalo. Imagine how self-fulfilling it would have been if he guided Buffalo to its first championship in a major sport. You don't turn your attention toward Toronto if you're looking to soothe your ego. It's where egos are left to die.
Market? The man worked and coached in Detroit for a decade. His team stood as a diversion during its worst economic times. Buffalo isn't the prettiest city in the land, but it would have been an upgrade over the Motor City and no less a hockey city. Toronto is bigger and better in many ways, but it's a beast that has devoured many a good hockey man.
Power? He wasn't looking for power. He wanted to coach while having some say in hockey matters. He had no desire to become a general manager. Any team that hired him would want his input in hockey decisions. After all, that's one reason they wanted him in the first place.
Chance to win? The Sabres have a collection of good young players in the system. Fans tend to exaggerate the impact prospects will make, but there appears to be enough talent to lead the organization in the right direction. Jack Eichel is on the way. Their chances of getting back into contention would have greatly improved with Babcock behind the bench. Despite what the recent record showed, Buffalo wasn't going to be terrible forever, right?
We'll never know how Babcock arrived at his decision unless he provides a full explanation. I would imagine it was a combination of various factors that told him Buffalo wasn't the right place for him. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with Tim Murray. Or management in general. Or Pat LaFontaine's unceremonious exit. Or Ted Nolan being set up for failure. Or the overall structure of the organization. Perhaps others familiar with the Sabres confirmed why they have such a lousy reputation.
I don't know. You don't know. Nobody knows other than Babcock, and even he might be hard pressed to explain. But we all have a mechanism that tells us when to stay away from certain situations. He trusted his instincts. When it was all added up, it just didn't feel right. Nobody should be surprised. It hasn't looked right for years.
The Sabres will find another hockey coach but none will bring the organization what Babcock would have provided above all else, especially when it came to recruiting unrestricted free agents: credibility. It's one thing the Sabres couldn't buy no matter how hard they tried. Now that he decided to take his talent elsewhere, you can't help but wonder if their credibility took another hit.
The message: If Babcock turned down all that money to work in a good hockey market, for a team supposedly on the rise with a potential superstar on the way, Buffalo must not be worth the hassle. That becomes a red flag for everybody else.