Mike Babcock resigns as Blue Jackets head coach over photo sharing controversy

The embattled head coach found himself in hot water earlier this week after a report that he made some players uncomfortable with his phone sharing exercise.

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock resigned from his position Sunday, the team announced.

The club also announced that Pascal Vincent will replace Babcock at the helm.

Babcock was hired by the Blue Jackets on July 1, his first job in the NHL since being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2019.

It was recently reported by Paul Bisonnette of Barstool’s Spittin’ Chiclets podcast that Babcock asked to see photos from his players' phones, then displayed the content in his office via AirPlay. Bisonnette named Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner among the players asked to show Babcock their personal photos.

Mike Babcock resigned as Blue Jackets head coach Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
Mike Babcock resigned as Blue Jackets head coach Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)

Babcock and Jenner immediately downplayed the severity of the allegations levied against the coach in a team-issued statement. Columbus star Johnny Gaudreau also quickly jumped to Babcock's defense.

Babcock and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen released statements on Sunday following the former's resignation.

"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 via the 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."

“This was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but one we felt necessary to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” Kekalainen added. “On behalf of the entire Blue Jackets organization, we want to thank Mike for his hard work and the professionalism he has shown in working together on a plan to step down.”

Columbus ownership released a separate statement on Monday expressing frustration with what transpired over the past week. The club made it clear Kekalainen and other members of the leadership team won't lose their jobs due to the controversy.

NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh met with Blue Jackets players this week in Columbus to discuss the alleged incidents. During a previously scheduled meeting set for Friday afternoon — later described as 'intense' — the NHL and NHLPA discussed next steps as to how to proceed with Babcock and the Blue Jackets.

Babcock’s resignation seemingly confirms a pattern of abusive behaviour against his players. During his tenure with the Maple Leafs, Babcock infamously asked Mitch Marner to rank his teammates’ work ethic, then read the list aloud to the team. Johan Franzen, who won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, said Babcock is the worst person he’s ever met.

Once viewed as a master tactician and a member of the Triple Gold Club, Babcock’s resignation leaves the bench boss with a tarnished legacy after a long and successful coaching career that included 700 career wins, landing him 12th all time behind former Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.