The incredibly short tenure that Mike Babcock served in Columbus has cast an eerie light on the Blue Jackets that will be hard for the Metropolitan Division club to shake. But the latest saga isn’t over for Babcock either, who resigned from his post as CBJ’s bench boss before coaching so much as a preseason tilt.
It was hard enough for many people to believe that Babcock was getting another shot at coaching at the NHL level given his past transgressions. So after resigning from the Blue Jackets’ head-coaching job just a few short offseason months later, has he finally and completely worn out his welcome in the NHL?
Remember, Babcock wasn’t exactly welcomed back into the NHL realm with open arms when the Blue Jackets hired him in July. He was only a few years removed from allegations of bullying while he coached the Detroit Red Wings and that really uncomfortable ordeal involving Mitch Marner when he coached the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The hockey-viewing public didn’t forget any of that when NBC Sports hired him in 2021 to be an in-studio analyst, or when he briefly coached college hockey at the University of Saskatchewan.
They certainly aren’t going to forget about him invading players’ privacy and going through their camera rolls on their personal phones. Now, it’s about seeing if NHL teams have finally gotten the memo that this is someone with no intention of changing.
The Blue Jackets organization is now dealing with its fair share of criticism, and it’s easy to see why. In a press conference on Monday, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he believed “that Mike Babcock deserved another opportunity to coach.” He added, “Obviously that was a mistake, and that responsibility’s mine.” That mistake is now an ongoing investigation into Babcock’s conduct during the very short window of time that he was with the team.
In a broader sense, the Babcock situation is now an example of what happens when the NHL coaching carousel saves room for coaches with problematic track records. As Aaron Portzline of The Athletic points out, Babcock’s conduct divided players on whether or not to say anything to the organization as many of them chose to tell Paul Bissonnette — who ultimately broke the story on his “Spittin’ Chicklets” podcast. It shows a massive flaw in the organization if players are more comfortable talking to Bissonnette than their own team, Portzline said. It also shows how quickly a bad coach can fracture an already beaten-down team instead of helping rebuild it.
The spotlight on the Blue Jackets isn’t going to go away quickly, even as training camps get underway this week. That same light probably won’t be leaving Babcock anytime soon, either, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to earn him another head-coaching nod in the NHL either.