Columbus Blue Jackets name Pascal Vincent new head coach

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      Pascal Vincent will begin his first NHL head coaching gig under tumultuous circumstances after the Columbus Blue Jackets promoted him in the wake of Mike Babcock’s abrupt departure on Sunday.

      Babcock stepped down amid the NHLPA’s investigation into allegations that he had prompted Columbus players to share private photographs from their cell phones with the team as part of what the former Stanley Cup winner referred to in a statement as “part of the process of getting to know them better.”

      When former NHLer and media personality Paul Bissonette caught wind of the story, a days-long publicity storm ensued over Babcock’s disregard for the privacy of his players.

      What might have been an odd but forgivable discretion by another coach snowballed into Babcock’s resignation; the coach’s reputation as a draconian presence in the locker room stems from prior spats with Maple Leafs superstar Mitch Marner and Hall-of-Fame defenseman Chris Chelios.

      Enter Vincent, who has served as an associate head coach in Ohio since 2020. Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen notably declined to assign an interim title to the Laval native, who signed a two-year contract.

      “Pascal Vincent is an outstanding coach,” Kekalainen said in a press release, which also covered Babcock’s hasty exit. “He was a strong candidate for our head coaching position several months ago.”

      Vincent has over 1,000 games of experience as a bench boss with the QMJHL Cape Breton Eagles and AHL Manitoba Moose, winning coach of the year honors at both stops. He steps in as Blue Jackets coach just days before training camp.

      Though Columbus was the Eastern Conference’s worst team in 2022-23, stars Zach Werenski and Patrik Laine will return from injury next season to join defensemen Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov, both acquired via trade, on a considerably improved outfit. If the team can rally around Vincent despite the controversy that has marred its offseason, he will gain instant credibility in coaching circles.

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