COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For the second time in a little over two months, the Blue Jackets are introducing a coach.
As part of the team’s preseason luncheon before the start of training camp on Wednesday, a news conference took place to introduce Pascal Vincent as coach, less than 24 hours after the resignation of Mike Babcock and Vincent’s promotion. Additionally, president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen took questions after the resignation of Babcock.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Davidson. “We got it wrong and that is on us.”
Babcock was hired July 1 but resigned Sunday after he was accused of violating players’ privacy by asking to inspect their phones. “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 a statement released by the team.
“Our ownership group is deeply frustrated and disappointed by the events of the past week,” wrote the Blue Jackets ownership group in a statement on Monday. “We have been in contact with John Davidson, 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.”
Vincent, the former associate coach, will take over under a two-year deal. The 51-year-old from Quebec is a first-time NHL head coach and has been part of the Blue Jackets’ coaching staff since 2021, hired by Brad Larsen. Babcock then retained Vincent.
“We are going to make sure our fans are proud to be Columbus Blue Jackets fans,” said Vincent.
Ben Khan, a founding member of the group CBJ Artillery, said it was a shocking and rocky start to the season.
“I mean, as a fan, yeah. You bring in a guy that, hey, we’re going to be cup contenders or at least make it a run in the playoffs. And here you are. He’s resigning two days, three days before training camp. So, yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing,” Khan said.
Khan said Babcock was a controversial pick from the start. He is confident in the team’s choice to name Pascal Vincent as the new head coach.
“He has the players. All the players have good opinions on him. So if they think highly of Pascal, they’re going to play better,” Khan said.
Vincent’s first NHL job was with the Winnipeg Jets as an assistant from 2011 to ’16. He then became coach of the Jets’ top minor-league affiliate in Manitoba. He was named the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2018 after guiding the Moose to a 42-26-4 record and the second round of the playoffs. As a player, he was in the junior and minor leagues from 1989 to ’93.
The Blue Jackets open the regular season Oct. 12 at Nationwide Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers, who are led by former Jackets coach, John Tortorella. They have their first preseason exhibitions Sunday, playing the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road at 1 p.m. and at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m. It’s unknown which of the two squads Vincent will lead.