Blue Jackets hire Babcock as head coach after contract with Maple Leafs expires

Columbus Blue Jackets new head coach Mike Babcock discusses why he decided to come back to the NHL after three and a half years, discussing how his family helped him make the decision and his attraction to come to Columbus.

Mike Babcock was officially named the ninth head coach in Columbus Blue Jackets history on Saturday.

Babcock hasn’t coached in the NHL since he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2019. His eight-year contract with the Maple Leafs concluded on June 30, prompting the delayed announcement.

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.

After his time with the Maple Leafs, Babcock joined the University of Saskatchewan in February of 2021 and coached the men’s hockey team for one season. He announced his retirement on Aug. 26, 2022.

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

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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 marked 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.

“(Franzen) was hurt at the time of the playoffs, we lost to Nashville … and some of the things he said to him on the bench …,” Chelios said. “I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors — but he was blatantly verbally assaulting him during the game.”

During a sit-down interview with Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson, Babcock addressed the Franzen comments, telling Simpson that the idea he tried to bully anyone was “the craziest thing” he’d “ever heard.”

However, Babcock also admitted he “didn’t even know what mental health was.”

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Babcock told Simpson that he reached out to Franzen with the intent to apologize, but never heard back.

On top of 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 who is a member of the Triple Gold Club.

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

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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