NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2023

by | Sep 18, 2023 | News, NHL | 22 comments

Mike Babcock steps down as Blue Jackets head coach plus the latest on Paul Stastny, Calen Addison and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger reports Mike Babcock has resigned as head coach of the Blue Jackets following an NHL Players Association investigation into allegations that he violated his players’ privacy during offseason meetings.

Associate coach Pascal Vincent has taken over as head coach, signing a two-year contract. Training camp opens on Sept. 20.

Mike Babcock steps down as Columbus Blue Jackets coach (NHL Images).

Babcock, 60, was hired by the Blue Jackets in July. He released a statement that continuing as their head coach was becoming too much of a distraction, expressing his disappointment that he couldn’t continue in the role and wishing the team well.

Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also released a statement calling Babcock’s resignation a necessary move to refocus the club on the upcoming season. Kekalainen thanked him for his “hard work and professionalism.”

Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast co-host Paul Bissonnette revealed last week that he’d been told Babcock was demanding to see players’ cellphones to scroll through photos. Babcock and Jackets captain Boone Jenner quickly released statements refuting Bissonnette’s version of events. Jenner and teammates Johnny Gaudreau and Zack Werenski indicated they had no problem with Babcock’s request, claiming it was being blown out of proportion.

The narrative changed after the NHLPA met with Blue Jackets players to conduct an investigation into the matter. A source told Hedger that one player felt Babcock was using his phone for an “uncomfortable length of time,” leaving him concerned that Babcock may have been searching through his text messages. Hedger cited a report from Sportsnet indicating multiple sources mirrored what he had been told.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes this is the end of Babcock’s coaching career in the NHL. He felt that this incident, and the allegations that surfaced in 2019 that Babcock bullied players and staff during his tenures with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, irreparably tarnished his otherwise impressive NHL coaching career.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline believes Babcock’s resignation raises troubling questions about the Blue Jackets organization.

If they knew about the extent of his interactions with the players when first revealed by Bissonnette and tried to cover it up, it doesn’t look good for those who run the team like Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson.

If they didn’t know, Portzline suggests the club’s ownership must start asking questions about why the players felt more comfortable talking to Bissonnette and the NHLPA than with those in charge.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fallout from this will hang over the Blue Jackets during training camp and the upcoming start of the season. This situation isn’t a good look for the franchise, especially for Kekalainen and Davidson. They were responsible for bringing in Babcock in the first place despite his baggage. They gave him a chance to redeem himself as an NHL coach and it blew up in their faces before he coached a single game for them.

The issue here is invasion of privacy. A person’s cell phone often contains personal information that they might be reluctant or unwilling to share with somebody else. That’s why we have password protection on our phones. It would be like someone asking to go through your personal computer or to visit your home to dig through your personal effects.

Portzline believes Bissonnette may have done the Blue Jackets a favor by breaking this story as it allowed the team to confront this issue as quickly as possible. Bissonnette is a colorful and brash personality. However, he’s willing to talk about issues that some in the media may be reluctant to cover for fear of losing access to team contacts.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski also points out that the NHLPA, under new executive director Marty Walsh, deserves credit for its swift handling of this situation with its proactive investigation. He also noted that the NHL has its “whistleblower” apparatus yet the Blue Jackets players felt more comfortable talking to Bissonnette and the PA.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman recently reported that long-time NHL center Paul Stastny isn’t interested in signing a professional tryout offer with NHL clubs. The 37-year-old unrestricted free agent is only interested in contract offers. He’s coming off a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening on Wednesday and Thursday, Stastny might have to accept a league minimum deal (one year, $775K) if he hopes to skate with an NHL team this season. He could end up waiting until injuries strike a club during training camp.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild reached an agreement with forward Jujhar Khaira on a one-year, two-way contract worth $775K at the NHL level. He’d spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of the Wild, Michael Russo reports a new contract for restricted free-agent defenseman Calen Addison should be coming within the next few days.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen and his long-time broadcast partner Jim Ralph will be returning to radio this season. It will be the 72-year-old Bowen’s 42nd season covering the Leafs.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Future Hockey Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr recently confirmed he’ll be playing for the Kladno Knights in the Czech Extraliga. It will be his 35th professional hockey season, which began when he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91. Jagr, 51, last played in the NHL in 2017 and has been skating with Kladno ever since.


  1. Honestly, I don’t see how JD and Jarmo survive this situation. Regardless of all the who’s, what’s and why’s, just the public perception of a cover up is harmful. Fifty years after Nixon and public figures still haven’t learned the lessons.

    • I am really having trouble wrapping my head around this thing, and am rapidly losing intrest in my beloved Jackets, but if the perception is some sort of cover up, you can’t stop with JD and Jarmo. What do you do with Jenner, Gaudreau and Werenski? They all came out publicly and said it was no big deal. Are they part of the Jackets Deep State? Does Rick Nash, the most popular Jacket ever, get run out of the front office, also? It was presented in Cbus that Nash really loved his time playing for Babcock and his endorsement is what put the hiring over the top. Just interesting questions.

      • Jenner and Gaudreau are older players who have a different perception of what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Werenski is an established veteran and the accusations against Babcock were that he bullied and played mind games with young players in their first couple years. As for Nash, consider the circumstances. Nash was a member of superstar loaded teams assembled for international tournaments. Babcock’s primary job was selecting a style to play and deciding who plays on what line or pairing. And those teams were together for a brief period of time. That means that a false impression of someone is easily gathered.

      • Babcock was a strange hire in the first place as he has a reputation of favoring veteran players and not being very good at developing young players.
        With all the youth in Blue Jackets system why would they ever have considered hiring a coach with this reputation?

    • This is certainly the end of Babcock as a coach anywhere. A sad end to a fine coaching career. The Jackets never should have hired him in the first place. His experience in Toronto showed that he had lost control over the aggressiveness that had made him such a successful coach. Similar to what happened to Marc Crawford in Vancouver with the Bertuzzi incident. Once a coach loses control it’s almost impossible to regain it.
      Kakeleinen should follow Babcock out the door. Amazing lack of leadership in that front office.
      On a brighter note it’s good to see Vincent get his chance as a head coach. Long overdue.

  2. I don’t get why the hall of fame doesn’t just waive the retirement requirements for Jagr. Is there really any doubt he’s a lock for the hof?

    • Sure, Jagr looks like a lock for the HOF now, but what if his play seriously declines over the next 10 years?

      • Lol! Nice one.

  3. I am so glad that Babcock is done. When I listen to his interviews it is nothing but me….me….me!! I think Commodore had it right when he called him a piece of @#!$!! Men like Babcock don’t change. They just polish it up a bit. What he did to Modano in my book makes him the ultimate tyrant. I’m not sure what it takes for these NHL clubs to see what is so obvious to the casual observer.

  4. So one player has an issue with the coach and the coach has to resign? Accusations of a coverup and the world is coming to an end. Maybe the player was unhappy with the phone situation or maybe he was unhappy about something else. Unless more info comes out it all seems more than a bit ridiculous to me. Every coach in the league should be worried now that they may say or do something to offend a player and find themselves getting the boot….

    • Paul, one player’s accusations led to the full investigation. The full investigation was never finished, or at least never released any findings, but it seems safe to conclude that they would have found more than just accusations from one player.

    • I’ve heard more players were saying things privately.
      Then the NHLPA stepped in and started interviewing each player 1 on 1 to gather info and I think Babcock got out voluntarily before more damaging info formally came out.
      I don’t care what job you are in, if your boss forces you to hand over your phone so he can go through everything in private WITHOUT YOU being present (pics, texts, social media, etc) that is a major HR / management issue.
      Babcock got run out of his last job for being a bully, and this scenario is no different, especially to young guys trying to make the team that would be uncomfortable pushing back.
      It’s good to see the NHLPA step in an protect the players instead of brushing it under the rug.

  5. Pupinabox, Jenner, Gaudreau and Werenski may have been treated differently in the meeting. It could have been no big deal to them. As stated, Babcock had one of the players phone for a long time and he was concerned about personal things other than photos.

    I don’t believe this will hang over the team. Put yourself in their places, being in your 20’s and someone went through your phone. He resigned and it will soon be forgotten. If that episode affects the players for the next month or two, I would be very surprised. To me, it’s one of those things that’s a big deal, yet it’s no big deal now since he’s no longer there.

    • Agree with that sentiment Dave, and glad I put some conditions on my opinion of this. As I didn’t think it was that big a deal.
      But when you are scrolling through someone’s phone for a few minutes, that is different than just sharing pics. Although just one player said that happened according to Friedman.

      I still wouldn’t give a crap if a guy I worked with scrolled through my pictures. Still seems overblown to me, but I get why he resigned if one of the players was that upset. But suggesting the GM and president should be fired too, seems a bit extreme?

      Not much to see on my phone I guess.

      • No fish caught out of season, Ray?
        Seriously, if Babcock’s actions were a firing offence, shouldn’t the people who hired him be scrutinized just as closely?
        And what about the players who apparently had no problem with the process?
        The guy I feel for is the new head coach. I’ll be pulling for him.

      • Haha BCLeafFan, nope, don’t fish out of season, only went twice this year. North Sask & your province on the Fraser River for Sturgeon, which was a first and a good time. If you haven’t given it a try and like fishing, give it a go. Can be hit and miss for quantity, but odds of getting skunked are really low. Might get a monster too!

        The whole boss thing is an issue I suppose, but like I said all along it depends how this went down. Did he demanded it or was it in conversation about family, trips or whatever folks take pictures of, that matters IMO.

        The way the players who spoke publicly describe it, it all sounded like he was relationship building and getting to know each other better. If what happened to the other guy wasn’t, and he crossed a line, now he paid the price, fair enough.

        If I was having a beer or a bite with my boss, and he wanted to see a picture of vacations, or kids, or whatever came up in the conversation, I would find the pics, and hand him my phone without thinking twice about it. If he hung onto it and was scrolling for 2 minutes, I would ask him WTF he was looking for, and wouldn’t be afraid to do it. If I was 21, if I recall, I likely would have done it as well. Was never one not to speak my mind, even more so back then.

        I think the thought that he was looking for something devious, or to get dirt on the player seems unlikely to me. I can’t understand why would he do that?

        I dunno, bad hire by the looks of it, and anybody who has hired people for any stretch and says they have a perfect record is a liar. And any candidate that says they have a perfect record is a liar too. We all make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them.

    • What is more interesting is why did he asked to look at their phones? what was he looking for?
      Officially to look at picks of players’ families.
      Makes no sense…there are Team’s official functions where everybody meets everybody. Families come to the games, he could have met them then…It’s like an episode from the Twilight Zone…

  6. No one had a problem with the NFL going through Tom Brady’s phone during that useless “deflate-gate” fiasco. Now, everyone has privacy issues. The guy wanted to see pictures of the players family to get to know them better. Creepy, but not illegal. I am sure if a player was uncomfortable with it, they could have said “No”. Now, CBJ will wallow in mediocrity for another season, losing a good coach that could have turned things around there.

    • You just glossed over the whole crux of the argument:

      >>I am sure if a player was uncomfortable with it, they could have said “No”.

      That’s the entire issue. I’d be willing to bet that either: a) they absolutely could not say ‘no’, or b) they, at best, would have been hesitant to do so for fear of some reprisal.

      Either way you, as a boss, can’t put your employees in that position. Especially coming from someone with a history of doing bullying things.

      The NHLPA sure saw something wrong with it.

      • I guess when they expose the young player that snitched on Babs, that they will need to hide him in the team’s “safe space”, if they haven’t already.

  7. After going over the phone scrolling over and over again, and reading the comments about MB and that he such a piece of doggy do, for doing this.

    I come away with “I’m old” I just don’t understand the hatred.

    MB as in the passed has asked to see photos, in MB defense after all the scrutiny that he should’ve known he be under, he honestly didn’t think this was a bad think, he thought it would help to get to know the players.

    Poor judgement, absolutely.

    Personally i wouldn’t ask to see my employee’s phone as it’s an invasion of privacy.

    Why didn’t Werenski just say “no?” or did he? “Sorry Mike i’m not comfortable sharing my photos with you. There private and their for me.”

    As for Babcock losing his job. There wasn’t any other way. The divide was already created in the room. No way you could start the season in that manner.

    If it was handle differently and if Werenski and other felt more comfortable going to Babcock or the GM and settling things down, then yes they could’ve proceeded differently. For what ever the reason(s) it didn’t go that way.

    Now you still have to wonder if the GM has a gripe with some of his players and if anyone get gets moved out. Depends on how the GM feels, if he feels the player(s) undermined him, he may feel need to get rid of such player(s).

  8. World pretty soft I’m no Babcock fan but I have zero issue with a coach wanting to know more about his players family. He should have not been hired as he was going to be under a microscope and had no chance of succeeding with todays media and expectations. Mike was the most sought after coach not many years ago I’m sure he has made some decisions he would like back but we all have wish him the best.