Report: Blue Jackets to name Babcock head coach after June 30
Mike Babcock will resurface in the NHL next season, as the Columbus Blue Jackets intend to hire him as their new head coach, reports TSN's Pierre LeBrun.
The Jackets won't finalize the move until after June 30, when Babcock's contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs expires, adds LeBrun. The Leafs still owe him what's left of that deal.
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen declined to confirm the report Saturday.
"We're still doing our due diligence, and we'll get to it when the time's right," Kekalainen told Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch. "Unfortunately, I can't say anything more."
Toronto fired the now-60-year-old in November 2019 amid a losing streak and allegations of a toxic work environment. The Leafs replaced him by promoting Sheldon Keefe, who remains in the role.
Babcock guided the Leafs to three playoff berths but no series wins during his tenure. The club went 173-133-45 in four-plus campaigns with him at the helm. Before that, Babcock led the Detroit Red Wings for 10 seasons, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2008. He spent his first two years as a head coach with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who advanced to the Cup Final in his first season with the team.
The Ontario-born bench boss who grew up in Saskatchewan is the only head coach in the "Triple Gold Club," having won the Cup, the World Championship, and first place in an Olympic tournament. He claimed gold medals at the Olympic Games in 2010 and 2014.
However, he's also been accused of mistreating players. Not long after Babcock's firing in 2019, Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner confirmed reports that the bench boss forced him to rank his teammates by their work ethic during his rookie season and then shared the list with the team.
Shortly after that revelation, former Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios said Babcock verbally assaulted teammate Johan Franzen during the 2011-12 playoffs, causing the forward to have a nervous breakdown. Franzen called Babcock "the worst person I have ever met."
The University of Saskatchewan hired Babcock in February 2021 to coach its men's hockey program for two seasons. However, he resigned in August 2022 and said he was retiring from coaching.
The Blue Jackets fired head coach Brad Larsen in April after missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Columbus finished second-last in the NHL in 2022-23 with a 25-48-9 record.