Mike Babcock Spoke About The Team's Roster In His Appearance on 97.1 FM The Fan

By Coby Maeir on August 16, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets name Mike Babcock as their new head coach during a press conference at Nationwide Arena.

New Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock appeared on Common Man & T-Bone on 97.1 FM The Fan in Columbus on Tuesday. 

One topic Babcock covered was how he felt about the team's roster and said both Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine would say they need to be better than they were last season. Gaudreau posted 21-53--74 in 80 games after a 115-point season in 2021-22 and Laine scored 22-30--52 in just 55 games last season. 

"It's our job to maximize each and every individual so they get the best out of them," Babcock said. "So we need those guys (Gaudreau and Laine) to be stars."

In 2022-23, the Blue Jackets allowed the second-most goals in the NHL, but Babcock said that the additions to the blue line have changed things.

"You get (Zach) Werenski back," Babcock said. "And then you add (Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson) on the back end suddenly your back end is way different [along] with (Erik) Gudbranson as a veteran guy."

Babcock also spoke about Elvis Merzlikins, who is coming off career lows in save percentage (.876) and goals-against average (4.23), and said that he hasn't been as good as he can be while emphasizing the importance of defensive structure. 

"So we got to get (Merzlikins) playing the way he can," Babcock said. "Part of that is just getting the group organized in the (defensive zone) so the goalie knows where the puck is coming from. When you're disorganized, you don't have a clue. When you're organized, you know where the shot's coming from. You can be there and be square."

Finally, Babcock said there are many players on the team with bright futures including Kirill Marchenko, Adam Fantilli, and Kent Johnson, adding that he left out several players.

"The reality is (there are) good young players that got a long way to go," Babcock said. "And they're just trying to find their way and our job is to help them earn confidence."

Do Mike Babcock and the Blue Jackets roster have what it takes to make the playoffs in 2023-24?