The Columbus Blue Jackets officially announced Mike Babcock as their next head coach on Saturday. Babcock, whose contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs expired on June 30, agreed to a two-year contract with the franchise.
Babcock, now with his fourth NHL team, replaces Brad Larsen and inherits a Columbus team that went 25-48-9 and finished 31st overall last season. In a statement, Babcock said he is excited for the opportunity to work for a franchise that has all the resources necessary to win.
“I’d like to thank my family for their support as well as the ownership group led by the McConnell family, Mike Priest, JD and Jarmo for giving me the opportunity to come here,” Babcock said in a statement. “This is a terrific city with strong ownership, a great management team, talented players, world-class facilities and a dedicated, passionate fan base, and I couldn’t be more excited to be the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.”
Babcock began his head coaching career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002, and he led the team to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final in his first year on the job. After just two years in Anaheim, Babcock left to become the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
In his 10 seasons with the Red Wings, Babcock coached the team to the playoffs every year, and led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2009. In 2015, Babcock accepted a head coaching position with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto never advanced past the first round under Babcock, and he was fired early in the 2019-20 season. Babcock brings an all-time record of 700-418-19-164 to the Blue Jackets.
Babcock hasn’t coached in the NHL since he was fired by the Maple Leafs, and he has faced criticism from former players about alleged mistreatment in the past. In the Blue Jackets’ official announcement, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said the team was “very thorough” in its process of hiring Babcock.
“Our goal at the outset of this process was to find a coach to give our players the best chance to succeed through structure, discipline and experience as we continue to build a team that can compete for a Stanley Cup championship,” said Kekalainen. “After a very thorough and lengthy process we are pleased to welcome Mike Babcock as the next head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.”
Former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore has criticized Babcock for his coaching style, and former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen accused Babcock of verbally abusing him. Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios backed up Franzen’s account of the incidents.
In Toronto, Babcock allegedly made star forward Mitch Marner rank his teammates by their work ethic during his rookie season.