In case you were wondering, Mike Babcock isn’t sure if he’ll coach again in the National Hockey League.
That’s one of a few takeaways from Babcock’s interview with Pierre LeBrun in The Athletic, published Tuesday, and it comes after about a year of radio silence.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Babcock said. “It’s got to be the right fit. But I’ve stayed busy. My interaction with NHL coaches has been spectacular. It’s unbelievable. And I’ve talked to a number of [general] managers, so that’s been a lot of fun.”
The bench boss was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2019.
Following his dismissal, stories began to emerge of Babcock’s conduct.
Among them was Johan Franzen’s account. The former Detroit Red Wings termed the coach “the worst person I have ever met” and stated that he was a “bully” who would “lay into people without any reason.”
Former Red Wing Chris Chelios confirmed Franzen’s account on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, referencing one incident in particular from Game Five of Detroit’s 2012 playoff series against Nashville.
“Some of the things he (Babcock) said to him (Franzen) on the bench, I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors one-on-one, but he blatantly verbally assaulted him during the game on the bench,” Chelios said. “It got to the point where poor Johan, no one really knowing he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing, he just broke down and had nervous breakdown, not only on the bench but after the game in one of the rooms in Nashville.”
Franzen confirmed the Nashville incident, adding that it was just the “tip of the iceberg” as far as Babcock’s treatment.
There was also an incident involving Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, where Babcock told the then-rookie to rank his teammates by work ethic. The story initially went that Babcock revealed the list to the team, but the former coach corrects the record in The Athletic interview.
“So Mitch was in my office,” says Babcock. “We were talking about work ethic. I asked him where he ranked on the scale. And that was no problem, that was just a private thing. It was a good meeting, Mitch left. But then I was meeting, I’m pretty sure it was with (Tyler) Bozak, afterward. Bozy was an important part of our team. What I ended up doing – and I made a big-time mistake, I knew as soon as I did it – when we were talking about competing and I said, ‘Well, look where Mitch ranks it.’”
So, in other words, Babcock didn’t show the whole team the list but only showed Tyler Bozak. The coach says he immediately found Marner and addressed it.
Babcock is set to debut on NBC as a broadcaster, by the way. The announcement of his hiring came a few days after NBC noted that Mike Milbury would not be returning.