Report: Blue Jackets to hire Mike Babcock as head coach

Mike Babcock will reportedly be back in the NHL next season as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Blue Jackets intend to name Mike Babcock as their new head coach, according to a report from Sportsnet. The move won't be officially announced until Babcock's contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs expires at the end of this month, per the report.

Babcock hasn't coached at the NHL level since being fired by the Maple Leafs partway through the 2019-20 season. The veteran coach was in the middle of an eight-year deal with Toronto at the time of his dismissal.

He spent one season at the helm of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies following his departure from the Maple Leafs, but announced his intention to retire during an appearance on a Saskatchewan radio show last August. Those retirement plans will now be put on hold.

Mike Babcock will reportedly be the next head coach of the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Mike Babcock will reportedly be the next head coach of the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Columbus wasn't the only team to have expressed interest in Babcock this spring, as the New York Rangers were reported to have made calls about him after parting ways with Gerard Gallant.

The results on Babcock's resume are impressive but dated. He has 17 seasons of NHL experience under his belt, splitting 1,301 games between the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Babcock owns a 700-418-19-164 career record and won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008. On the international stage, he has coached Canada to two Olympic gold medals, World Juniors gold, World Championship gold and a World Cup of Hockey title.

Despite the accolades, Babcock has received his fair share of criticism, most notably from former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen, who called his old coach "the worst person I’ve ever met.” Franzen's ex-teammate and Hall of Famer Chris Chelios alleged Babcock "verbally assaulted" Franzen during a game and gave him a "nervous breakdown."

Among other incidents, Babcock also notably took heat for asking Leafs star Mitch Marner to rank his teammates by how hard they worked, then shared the list with the rest of the team.

Columbus was in need of a new bench boss after firing Brad Larsen in April. The Blue Jackets are coming off a disappointing 2022-23 campaign that saw them finish in last place in the Eastern Conference with 59 points. The club owns the third-overall selection in the upcoming draft.