The team made the announcement official during a press conference at Nationwide Arena on Saturday with Babcock signing a two-year deal. You can watch the press conference in the player above.
“I’m convinced we got the best man for the job,” said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen during the introductory press conference.
Babcock, 60, has coached 1,301 games in the NHL, earning 700 wins over 17 seasons and one Stanley Cup. He coached the Maple Leafs for a little over four years until he was fired in November 2019. His record in Toronto was 173-133-45.
“I’m not going to go back to work just to prove something,” said Babcock. “I’m going to go back if there’s pure joy.”
He also coached Anaheim for two years and Detroit for 10 years, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and finishing as the runner-up in 2009.
Babcock’s success on the ice extends well beyond the NHL. Babcock led Canada to gold medals at the world championship in 2004 and the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014. He’s the only coach who is a member of the Triple Gold Club.
“We’re excited,” said Babcock on the Blue Jackets. “There’s a ton of kids. They’ve been drafting well for a while. Now, we have to maximize their potential.”
Babcock’s methods for winning have been marred in controversy, including accusations of verbal abuse.
Former Red Wings player Johan Franzen, who played for Babcock all 10 years he was in Detroit, told Swedish outlet Expressen that Babcock was a “bully” and “the worst person I have ever met.”
Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios backed up Franzen’s accusations when he told a story to the Spittin Chiclets podcast about Babcock verbally assaulting Franzen during the 2011-12 playoffs.
“[Franzen] was hurt at the time of the playoffs, we lost to Nashville,” Chelios said. “I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors, but he was blatantly verbally assaulting him during the game.”
In an interview with Sportsnet, Babcock said the idea that he bullied Franzen or anyone else on the team was “the craziest thing he’s ever heard of.”
The Toronto Sun also reported an incident of Babcock making then rookie Mitch Marner rank players by their work ethic and showed the list to Maple Leafs’ teammates. Babcock disputes the details of the incident with Marner but told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that he was at fault.
“There’s no question that it was all on me. Not on Mitch,” Babcock told LeBrun in 2021. “It was all on me. I made a mistake.”