The Blue Jackets were finally able to announce their new head coach on Saturday, with Mike Babcock taking the place of terminated coach Brad Larsen. The club had to wait until July 1st to make the move official, allowing Babcock’s contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs to expire.
Babcock becomes the ninth full-time head coach in franchise history, getting a contract for two years and $8 million dollars. Usurping Larsen after the team struggled to find consistency this past season, the 60-year-old is a veteran coach, with 1,301 NHL games behind the bench, holding a 700-418-164 record (with 19 ties) in his career. He’s just four wins behind former Jacket coach John Tortorella for 11th most all-time.
For a franchise looking for accountability and respect, Babcock is certainly an obvious choice. He demands the most from his players and will definitely make this team more responsible on both sides of the puck. But contrary to what you may have heard – he’s not a coach who leans on his players to block shots or grind in the corners ala Tortorella – he’s a great thinker of the game, who will bring a proven, structured system built around puck possession to this team.
I think from an X’s and O’s perspective, this is the perfect hire for the Blue Jackets to make. With a young team, an experienced, proven veteran coach is definitely the way to go. He’ll make sure all four lines are playing the exact same way, which should make it easier for this team to weed through roster changes due to injuries or other mishaps.
With all of that said, we have to address the obvious concern here: Babcock has a reputation as a no-nonsense, “type A” personality. He’s had plenty of negative media surrounding him throughout the last few years, mostly involving his alleged treatment of players like Mike Commodore, Johan Franzen, and Mitch Marner.
We have to trust that the Jackets did their due diligence here and have done enough to ensure that Babcock has learned from his past transgressions, and will handle the young players on this team accordingly. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has done a terrific job of building up a talented roster, and the last thing we want to see is another mass exodus of talent from Columbus.
If Babcock has truly changed his ways, this hire could be an absolute grand slam for the Blue Jackets. This is exactly the kind of coach they need to help this group take a step forward; we just have to hope that he’s aware of what is on the line here and has changed himself for the better. One thing is for certain: a lot of jobs are tied to the success or failure of Mike Babcock.