Some coaching tenures last for multiple seasons of a given sport; others, for mere games during a single season. In the case of now-former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock, he finds himself in a more rarefied group: coaches whose time at a given team began and ended without a single regular season game played.
Following a controversy involving his players’ phones, Babcock announced on September 17 that he would resign from the position he took over earlier this year, following the end of the 2022-23 regular season. As ESPN NHL reporter Ryan S. Clark reports, Babcock released a statement saying “that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction.”
“While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time,” Babcock added. “I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
Pascal Vincent will be the team’s head coach moving forward.
In an article analyzing both Babcock’s resignation and the incidents that led to this point — Babcock requesting to see photos on numerous Blue Jackets players’ phones — Aaron Portzline of The Athletic observed that the team’s front office comes off especially badly in the incident.
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Portzline also underscored the troubling implications of Babcock’s actions. “This is unacceptable behavior on any level, with any player, in any generation,” Portzline wrote. “Looking through someone’s phone is worse than digging through their wallet or purse.”
Prior to his brief stint in Columbus, Babcock had longer — but still controversial — tenures in Toronto and Detroit. After being fired by the Maple Leafs, he also had a stint coaching the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. When he stepped down from that job in 2022, he declared himself retired from coaching. Whether he’ll return to that retirement now or turn up somewhere else remains to be seen.