Mike Babcock, a coach with a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals on his resume, has lost his last two NHL jobs.
Most recently for losing too many games. This time it was for his interactions with players, which followed a disturbing pattern of past behavior.
Babcock resigned as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday after just two months on the job, less than a week later. his requests for personal photos from players in the effort to link has drawn criticism as too invasive.
The team announced Babcock’s sudden departure as a result NHL Players’ Association investigation to his actions. Pascal Vincent was named as Babcock’s replacement and signed a two-year contract until the 2024-25 season.
“Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace,” said NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh. “Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus. The club’s decision to move forward with a new head coach is the right direction.”
Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette said on his podcast Tuesday that Babcock asked players to show him photos and project them to others to see in an invasion of privacy. Babcock and captain Boone Jenner denied the report, saying it was just a way for the new coach to get to know the players.
Still, the players’ union launched a review and updated the league Friday on its findings.
“This was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but we felt it was necessary to ensure we remained focused on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Blue Jackets organization, we want to thank Mike for his hard work and professionalism as we worked together on the resignation plan.”
Babcock’s behavior has come under scrutiny due to his history of polarizing, old-school coaching techniques, many of which came to light after he was fired by Toronto in 2019. It was his first NHL job since then.
“After reflection, it became clear that continuing as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be too disruptive,” Babcock said. “While I am disappointed that I have not had the opportunity to continue the work that has been started, I know that it is in the best interest of the organization that I leave at this time. I wish everyone in the organization the best of luck in the upcoming season.”
Babcock, Detroit’s Stanley Cup-winning coach in 2008, said when he joined Columbus in July that evolved as a coach and learned how to better deal with players after his firing by Toronto.
After the Maple Leafs fired Babcock, there was a report that he asked the player to rank his teammates from hardest to least hardworking and then shared it with the rest of the group. Other former players have expressed their displeasure with Babcock, who at one point was considered the best coach in hockey.
Instead, Babcock’s time in the NHL may be over, and with it come questions about Kekalainen’s future in Columbus.
Babcock was the third coach Kekalainen hired since taking over in February 2013. The Blue Jackets have missed the playoffs the past three seasons.
Vincent, who will be 52 later this month, was one of the candidates for the job when Babcock got it. He was an assistant on former coach Brad Larsen’s staff the previous two seasons after four years as coach of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose.
Kekalainen described Vincent as an excellent coach who “knows our players and the organization and everyone here respects him.”
“He was a strong candidate for our head coaching position a few months ago and is in the best position to help us navigate this transition as we begin camp and lead our team forward,” Kekalainen said.
Vincent said it had been a tough day but he was looking forward to the opportunity.
“We have a great group of guys who have worked very hard in preparation for the season,” he said. “My goal will be to work with our staff to help them improve every day and be ready for what we believe will be an exciting season.”