Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock: ‘Did I think I did anything wrong? Absolutely’

Mike Babcock addresses the media as the Columbus Blue Jackets introduce him as their new head coach during a news conference on Saturday, July 1, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Although he didn’t get into specifics, new Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock admitted he made some mistakes during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Do I like how I was talked about after I left? No,” Babcock told The FAN Morning Show on Thursday. “Do I think I did anything wrong? Absolutely.”

Babcock hasn’t coached in the NHL since he was fired by the Maple Leafs in November 2019. His eight-year contract with the Maple Leafs concluded on June 30, and the Blue Jackets hired him the following day.

Babcock came under fire during his time with the Maple Leafs for reportedly asking Mitch Marner to rank the hardest-working players on the team during Marner’s rookie season in 2016-17.

The rankings then got back to the entire team after Babcock referenced the list in a conversation with Tyler Bozak, which showed Marner placing veterans Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Bozak near the bottom.

“Well, first thing I would say to you is I answer these questions over and over again,” Babcock said, when asked about whether he felt the need to change. “And I’m happy to do that in saying that I got nothing to hide. I’m not trying to hide from anything I’ve ever done. I think it’s important you own any mistake you’ve made, and you try to get better.”

He added that changing is an everyday consideration for him and his family.

“You’re trying to be a better coach, trying to be a better person,” he said. “To me, the last three-and-a-half years have been a gift from God. And what I mean by that is, (for) my wife and I and my family, we found so much joy in doing the things you love to do. And when you’re in the rat race like I was for a long, long time, I think sometimes you’re just spinning so fast. … You enjoy that time to breathe a little bit and then you can get outside your body and have a look at who you are and say, ‘Hey, these are things I’ve got to improve.”

After his time with the Maple Leafs, Babcock joined the University of Saskatchewan in February 2021 and coached the men’s hockey team for one season. He announced his retirement on Aug. 26, 2022, and hasn’t coached since.

The 60-year-old Babcock has coached 1,301 games in the NHL, earning exactly 700 wins over 17 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and guided the club back to the Stanley Cup Final the following year. Babcock also reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Ducks during his first season behind the bench, in 2003.

His time with Detroit was also marred afterward by strong accusations by former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen, who played under Babcock.

Franzen revealed he suffered mental struggles while in Detroit and told Swedish outlet Expressen that Babcock was “a bully who was attacking people” and “the worst person I have ever met.”

Hall of Famer Chris Chelios backed up Franzen’s accusations, telling a story on the Spittin Chiclets podcast about Babcock verbally assaulting Franzen on the bench during the 2011-12 playoffs.

In addition to winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit, Babcock has led Canada to gold medals at the world championship in 2004, plus the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014. He is the only coach in the Triple Gold Club.

Babcock is a three-time finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year.

Columbus fired head coach Brad Larsen on April 15 after the Blue Jackets missed the playoffs for the second straight season and finished last in the Eastern Conference with a 25-48-9 record. 

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