It has to be asked what did the Columbus Blue Jackets think they were going to get by hiring Mike Babcock?
Then again, it has to be asked why GM Jarmo Kekalainen still has a job, after he’s only produced one 100+ point team in his decade-long stewardship. Were the Jackets so desperate to be seen as taking things seriously that they felt they had to hire a coach with a pedigree, even if that pedigree has long been washed away by the knowledge of how he went about it? Did they think that Babcock’s neanderthal ways were what a team full of young kids needed? Or did they think Babcock had truly changed from what got him where he was before he was found out? What possible answer could there be to any of these questions that would be acceptable?
Babcock resigned as Jackets coach yesterday before even getting to training camp, as the investigation by the players’ association into his treatment of his players, specifically digging through players’ phones, proved out what Paul Bissonnette said about him. While seeing Bissonnette vindicated in any fashion, being the giblet that he is, it was always folly to think that he didn’t have a direct line to players who would line up to be on his show.
It is worrying, and should be foundation-shaking for the Jackets, that these players felt more comfortable talking to the union or to Bissonnette than anyone within the organization about what they felt was unfair treatment by their coach. Perhaps the Jackets were counting on players simply falling in line behind their coach as players have done throughout time. That’s certainly what Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau were trying, though maybe the way Babcock talked to established vets was different than how he talked to kids only just making their way in the league now.
Old hockey men will scream about the softness of today’s players, you can be sure, but this generation of hockey players (and athletes everywhere) have grown up with mental health being something taken seriously, something to be considered, instead of something to be shoved to the side in the name of “manliness.” The kind of old school asshoolery coaching that Babcock used to thrive in simply does not apply to players today. There’s no connection to be made that way.
The game is better off without Babcock and anyone like him, and though it shouldn’t have had to, it is good to see the league finally moving on without him. Especially after his mealy-mouthed statement that didn’t take any responsibility and portrayed his resignation as a selfless act to save the team from “distraction.” Babcock didn’t learn anything on his enforced break from coaching in the league, just served his time and hoped people would forget. His players certainly didn’t.
It is probably too forlorn a hope that the league and Gary Bettman will learn something from this and apply it to Joel Quenneville whenever his name becomes hot to be hired again by some team that thinks he’s the final piece. These guys don’t change, and coaching in the NHL isn’t a right. Quenneville’s issues were different, but the league would have to white knuckle and hope that he was never faced with another crisis like the one he failed with the Hawks. Why even take the risk?
As for the Jackets, it’s just another example of how the organization isn’t set up to build a sustained winner, and never really has been. They’ve been as irrelevant as a team can be in any sport, in a town where they’ll always play second fiddle to the college football team even if they have the professional window to themselves, at least when the Crew aren’t playing.
This was a summer that the Jackets were able to pick perhaps the most exciting player in franchise history in Adam Fantilli, who really should be a foundational piece for an eventual contender. They thought they could develop him under Mike Goddamn Babcock. Tells you everything you need to know.
Anyway, here’s the best tackle of the weekend. Do they make a card that’s harsher than red? This should be an onyx.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social