Less than a day after Mike Babcock resigned as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team held its pre-training camp media day on Monday. In addition to introducing new head coach Pascal Vincent, the Blue Jackets’ front-office leadership group also spoke to media about Babcock’s departure, which came following the NHL Players’ Association’s investigation last week into his allegedly looking through photos on players’ phones.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen explained that he had a meeting with the players and apologized for any awkwardness caused by the scandal. As reported by ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, Kekalainen also revealed that Babcock had also looked through his photos in an attempt to connect with him, and Kekalainen claimed,“Personally I had no problem with it but I can see how it might put someone in an uncomfortable situation.”
Kekalainen did add that “some of our players weren’t comfortable with his methods, and that was concerning.”
Team president of hockey operations John Davidson also shared his thoughts on the matter Monday. “We went through a process earlier this year prior to hiring Mike Babcock as our head coach, but we got it wrong. And that’s on us,” Davidson told reporters. “And I promise you we will learn from this moving forward.”
“He was a player. I was a player. We have to understand our players. And it just wasn’t going to work,” Davidson said.
Earlier in the day, Blue Jackets ownership released a statement indicating that, while they are “deeply frustrated and disappointed with the events of the past week,” they don’t anticipate any changes to their hockey leadership at this time.
Most notably, the implication there is that Kekalainen will stay on as GM. He enters a “prove it” season after he made some aggressive upgrades to his last-place roster, including acquiring two new top-four defensemen in Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson.