Mike Babcock's tenure as head coach of the Blue Jackets is over.
The club announced Sunday that Babcock resigned just 78 days after being hired following a joint investigation by the NHL and NHLPA into photo-sharing allegations made public by the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast on Tuesday. According to the podcast, co-hosted by Rear Admiral alongside former NHLers Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Whitney, Babcock had "been asking various Blue Jackets to see their phones then AirPlaying their photos on his office TV.".
“This was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but one we felt necessary to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in the team's statement. “On behalf of the entire Blue Jackets organization, we want to thank Mike for his hard work and the professionalism he has shown in working together on a plan to step down.”
“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said in the team's statement. “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. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
The NHLPA’s Executive Director Marty Walsh and Assistant Executive Director Ron Hainsey reportedly flew into Columbus on Thursday to speak with players. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the main focus of the investigation was information that “some of the younger Blue Jackets were uncomfortable with what occurred.”
However, Friedman reports that both the NHL and NHLPA were initially satisfied with Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau’s public support of Babcock.
"I thought it was a great first meeting and good way for us to start to build a relationship," Jenner said in a team statement Tuesday. "To have this blown out of proportion is truly disappointing.”
"I was a little upset how it kind of kind of got blown out of proportion there," Gaudreau said on Wednesday's episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast with Sportsnet's Friedman and Jeff Marek. "Obviously I think a lot of people saw Boone [Jenner's] statement but I think one other way to get to know someone that you've never met before is to get to know each other's families. Whether that's through pictures or [whatever] it is, I think it was his way of kind of getting to know me and I got to know him."
The Blue Jackets named Babcock, the 12th-winningest coach in NHL history, the franchise’s ninth full-time head coach on July 1, and arrived in Columbus with a controversial past. According to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, "Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic. The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom."
The Blue Jackets will now be looking for a new bench boss as training camp approaches. The team begins on-ice work on September 21.