The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to hire Mike Babcock as their next head coach once his contract with Toronto expires on June 30, a team source not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to The Athletic on Saturday. Darren Dreger of TSN was the first to report the expected hire. Here’s what you need to know:
- Babcock replaces Brad Larsen, who was fired in April after two losses in Columbus.
- Babcock has not coached in the NHL since 2019, let go by the Maple Leafs after a 9-10-4 start to the 2019-20 season.
- The Blue Jackets finished with the second-worst record in the league last season at 25-48-9.
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Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen felt that the organization’s “acceptable standards” had fallen dramatically during the two seasons Larsen was at the helm, so it was no surprise they turned to a veteran coach known to lead with a firm hand But it would still be a surprise to many to see Babcock again, especially on a young roster that is miles away from being playoff-caliber.
The Blue Jackets would be wise to expect some fan backlash, given the way Babcock left Toronto. Shortly after he was fired in 2019, reports surfaced of emotional and verbal abuse from players he coached in Toronto and Detroit. — Portzline
Babcock, 60, owns a 700-418-183 career regular-season record with Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto, a .608 points percentage and a 90-74 record in the playoffs. He reached the Stanley Cup Final three times — once with Anaheim and twice with Detroit — and earned a 2008 Stanley Cup title with the Red Wings, along with two Olympic gold medals (2010 and 2014 with Canada), an IIHF World Championship (2004 with Canada), an IIHF World Junior Championship (1997 with Canada) and a World Cup gold medal (2017 with Canada).
On Feb. 2021, he was hired as a volunteer head coach at the University of Saskatchewan but stepped down over the summer.
Columbus missed the playoffs for the third straight year this season, finishing last in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets hold the No. 3 picks in the 2023 NHL Draft this month.
(Photo: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images)