The failed hiring – and eventual resignation – of Mike Babcock as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, falls directly at the feet of team management and ownership. Regardless which side you agree with; blaming Columbus Blue Jacket players for the Babcock fallout is unfair.
If you were able to sit through the team’s press conference this afternoon; you were treated to the standard, expected responses from the parties most guilty of hiring Babcock in the first place. President John Davidson began with a statement declaring responsibility on his own behalf. General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen followed up with a similar statement. Both apologized for the inconveniences and awkwardness that was caused by hiring Babcock. Both spoke about wanting to move on and preparing for the season with the players and coaches who are here now. One thing that was certain: they knew it was their mistake.
But we’re seeing a lot of people around social media blaming the players in this situation. Which leads me to the main point here: why is anyone looking to lay blame at the feet of any of the players? After all, isn’t it the players that everyone on both sides seems to be most concerned about, through this entire process? Isn’t that why the team felt it necessary to move on from Babcock?
Let’s begin with captain Boone Jenner, who was the first player we heard from in the immediate response of the accusations made on the Spittin Chiclets podcast. By all accounts from the team and Jenner himself, his response was written and prepared on his own. He was fine with the way Babcock approached him and requested to see pictures on his phone. Those sentiments were backed up by other players within the Blue Jacket organization – including superstar forward Johnny Gaudreau, star defenseman Zach Werenski, and even fourth line tough guy Mathieu Olivier.
We cannot get upset at players for sharing their own personal experiences. That’s one positive thing we can take from this whole situation: the team learned that each guy is different and different personalities might see things in a completely opposite light. This is why you can have a room full of people watch the same movie, and have multiple different perspectives at the end.
Now, imagine taking that same room full of people and asking them to see pictures on their phones. I can guarantee you that you’ll have a very wide range of responses. Some will gladly show you pictures of their families, friends, pets, vacations, and so on. Others will outright refuse. Some will go on with the request, but may not like it or feel comfortable with it. We have to respect that people are just different in how they respond to things.
Which is why we have to also understand the fact that some of the younger players in the organization might not have been happy with the exercise. Look, I was a teenager once. I get it. Without dating myself too much; if smart phones had been around when I was 18-20 years old, there would have probably been things on there I wouldn’t want my boss to see. Even if it’s not detrimental in any way, I might consider those things private. I may just not be comfortable with sharing any of it. Yes, even back then, we were uncomfortable with our private life being open knowledge to certain people (not that it was that long ago).
So regardless which side of the Babcock debate you agree with, I see no reason to blame any player for providing their feedback on the situation. Boone Jenner should not be stripped of his captaincy for writing a statement about his own personal take. Whichever young player (or players) felt uncomfortable with the situation, should not feel ashamed or guilty for sharing their feelings with the team or the NHLPA. There should always be plenty of opportunity for everyone to express how they feel in a safe environment. There should never be any repercussions for players being honest and open in this sort of situation.
We should really just be hopeful that both sides of this equation can come together and see eye to eye. That the dressing room will have a healthy rapport that allows the younger players to talk to the older players. The older players to talk to the coaches. The coaches to all of the players and management; and everyone to get along throughout the whole process. Building a healthy environment for what is almost certainly the most talented core the Blue Jackets have ever had, should be priority #1 here.