Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lomoriello says they are “fortunate” to have Mike Babcock, branding him “the best coach in the game”.
Babcock made the move to Toronto last summer after a success-laden spell with the Detroit Red Wings, with the challenge of breathing life into the NHL’s perennial underachievers cited as being too tempting to refuse.
And, despite a difficult start which sees the Leafs struggling with one of the poorest records in the Eastern Conference this season, Lamoriello insists he has more confidence in his coach than ever.
"I had not worked with Mike on a day-to-day basis but admired his work from afar," Lamoriello told Sportsnet.
"We were in the Stanley Cup together when he was in Anaheim. I had opportunity to watch him over seven games. I had players play for him in the Olympics.
“What I didn’t know was the type of energy he has and how it spreads throughout the staff. I have tremendous respect for that.
"We’re extremely fortunate here in Toronto. In my opinion, we have the best coach in the game.
“His enthusiasm and the way he teaches and the way he comes to work each and every day no matter what transpires the day before. We have the right person. Mike is a winner."
Lomoriello has also been impressed with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who has often split opinion in Toronto among media and fans.
He believes Babcock has breathed fresh life into his game, though, adding: “He (Phaneuf) has been one of the most impressive individuals I’ve been around. The leadership qualities that he’s shown me are genuine.
“Watching him, how he’s handled the young players, watching how his work ethic has been, watching how he’s handled the media – This man has extremely impressed me.”