Blue Jackets owners expect no further changes to staff
The Columbus Blue Jackets ownership group said Monday it is not expecting to make any further changes to the team's management after head coach Mike Babcock resigned on Sunday.
“Our ownership group is deeply frustrated and disappointed by the events of the past week," a statement released by the group, led by majority owner and Governor John P. McConnell read. "We have been in contact with (president of hockey operations) John Davidson, (general manager) Jarmo Kekalainen and our management team throughout this process and were in full agreement with Mike Babcock stepping down and Pascal Vincent leading our team as head coach.
“We had candid conversations with our leadership after last season about our goals and expectations for growth and progress on the ice in 2023-24. Those expectations are still in place and can still be achieved, so we do not anticipate further changes to our hockey leadership team at this time. Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days. We will continue to have regular communications with our hockey leadership and are looking forward to an exciting season.”
Babcock announced his resignation Sunday following investigations by the team, NHL, and NHLPA into his conduct during his brief time with the club.
“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said in statement. “While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
Columbus named Babcock the ninth coach in franchise history on July 1, nearly four years after his firing by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He succeeded Brad Larsen, who was fired by the Blue Jackets last spring after two seasons behind the bench.
The investigations into Babcock began on Sept. 12 after TNT Sports and Barstool Sports personality Paul Bissonnette claimed on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast that he had been told that Babcock had asked for captain Boone Jenner’s phone during an off-season meeting to view his personal photos and then put the photos onto a larger screen in his office using Apple AirPlay.
Both Babcock and the Blue Jackets were quick to call the report a mischaracterization of what had actually happened.
"While meeting with our players and staff, I asked them to share, off their phones, family pictures as part of the process of getting to know them better," Babcock said in a statement. "There was absolutely nothing more to it than that. The way this was portrayed on the 'Spittin' Chiclets' podcast was a gross misrepresentation of those meetings and extremely offensive. ... These meetings have been very important and beneficial, not only for me but for our players and staff as well, and to have them depicted like this is irresponsible and completely inaccurate."
Jenner also released a statement confirming Babcock’s account.
"While meeting with Babs, he asked me about my family and where I'm from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff,” Jenner said. “He then asked if I had pictures of my family, and I was happy to share some with him. He showed me pictures of his family. I thought it was a great first meeting and a good way for us to start to build a relationship. To have this blown out of proportion is truly disappointing."
Despite the denials, former Arizona Coyotes forward Bissonnette stood by his story, asserting that he had heard from more people following the release of the podcast who corroborated it. Mike Commodore, an outspoken former Detroit Red Wings defenceman who played under Babcock, said that he also heard similar stories about other Blue Jackets players.
"It happened with a few other players in Columbus, too,” Commodore said in a video posted to social media. “I don't want to use any names, but in particular [it involved] a young, very highly touted prospect.”
New NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and his assistant, former Blue Jackets defenceman Ron Hainsey, flew to Columbus to meet with players to learn more on Thursday. Then on Friday, Walsh and Hainsey met with the league office, in a meeting that was previously scheduled to address other matters, to report back on their findings.
"Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus. The club's decision to move forward with a new head coach is the appropriate course of action," Walsh wrote in a statement Sunday.
Vincent has been with the Blue Jackets organization since 2021, previously serving as an associate coach behind the bench.
“Pascal Vincent is an outstanding coach,” Kekalainen said Sunday. “He knows our players and organization and is respected by everyone here. He was a strong candidate for our head coaching position several months ago and is in the best position to help us navigate this change as we begin camp and lead our team moving forward.”
“This is a difficult day, but I am looking forward to this opportunity and appreciate the organization’s confidence in me to lead this team,” Vincent added. “We have a great group of guys that have been working very hard to prepare for the season. My focus will be to work with our staff to help them get better every day and be ready for what we believe will be an exciting season.”