NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2023
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.
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.