Avoiding the Babcock Backfire: Rangers Dodge Coaching Controversy

COLUMBUS, OHIO - JULY 01: Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach Mike Babcock addresses member of the media during a press conference at Nationwide Arena on July 01, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - JULY 01: Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach Mike Babcock addresses member of the media during a press conference at Nationwide Arena on July 01, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images) /

Discover the Shocking Behind-the-Scenes Story of Mike Babcock’s Near Misses as New York Rangers Head Coach in 2021 and 2023.

Mike Babcock, the coach whose name still evokes mixed emotions among hockey fans, came close to taking the reins of the New York Rangers, not once but twice!

Before Peter Laviolette became the 37th head coach in Rangers history, rumors were floating around that some folks within the organization wanted Babcock to be in the running. Now, that news caused quite a stir.

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman shed some light on it, saying, “Not everyone in the Rangers organization wanted to do Babcock, but I think there were some who wanted to pursue it.” Yet, who were these Babcock enthusiasts? At the time, it seemed like Glen Sather, the former GM, and James Dolan’s advisor, might have been among them.

However, it wasn’t the first time Babcock’s name appeared in connection with the Rangers. Let’s rewind the clock to May 2021. The COVID protocol hit David Quinn, New York’s coach, and his staff back then. During this period, Kris Knoblauch, the Hartford Wolf Pack head coach, stepped in, and guess what? The Rangers went 4-2 during that time like they found a sudden burst of energy in Quinn’s absence.

Glen Sather’s Secret Bid for Mike Babcock as Rangers’ Coach:

According to Forever Blueshirts, who got a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released book by longtime Rangers reporter  Rick Carpiniello, Glen Sather suggested to James Dolan that it was time to anoint Babcock. Sather thought the 2021 team was ready for his authoritarian coaching brand, even though they weren’t a seasoned, veteran squad.

Thankfully, President John Davidson(Now with the Blue Jackets) and GM Jeff Gorton (Now with the Montreal Canadiens) politely declined the suggestion—a Smart move, in hindsight.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, and Babcock, who hadn’t even coached a single game for the Columbus Blue Jackets, parted ways with the team. Why? Well, Spittin Chiclets reported that Babcock had asked players to show him pictures from their phones, a move that didn’t sit well with the younger players on the team.

Marty Walsh, the NHLPA executive director, didn’t mince words, saying, “Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus.” So, out went Babcock.

Remember, Babcock had faced some heat from his former players in recent years. After getting the boot from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019, allegations started pouring in, with Johan Franzen calling him a “bully” and “the worst person I have ever met.”

Franzen didn’t hold back, describing Babcock as a great coach but a terrible person, the worst he had ever encountered. “He’s a bully who was attacking people,” Franzen revealed.

And it wasn’t just stars like Franzen; even quieter players weren’t spared. Franzen said, “He would lay into a couple of the other players. The nice team players, the guys who don’t say very much. When they left the team, he went on to focus on me. It was verbal attacks. He said horrible things.”

Although Mike Babcock is a Stanley Cup Champion with the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, the only head coach in the “Triple Gold Club” (Olympics, Cup, and World Championship), he has the third-best points percentage in NHL history (.608) and is one of 12 coaches to have surpassed the 700 win mark. He still faces a lousy reputation.

Chris Chelios also chimed in, recalling how GM Ken Holland came to support Babcock during a team speech in Detroit. It was a stern message: “If you don’t like it, you could be traded.” That’s the sort of environment he fostered.

So, in hindsight, not hiring Babcock was the right call back then, and in light of recent events, it’s even more apparent today. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the decisions that kept him from becoming our coach.

Now, about Rick Carpiniello’s new book? He’s been covering the Rangers for ages, and this book gives you an insider’s look at some of the most significant moments in franchise history. From the Triumph Books website: “In The Franchise: New York Rangers, take a more profound and unique journey into the history of an iconic team.” If you’re a true Rangers aficionado, this one’s a must-read!

And as always, let’s keep the faith, fellow Blueshirts fans! Who knows what surprises lie ahead in our rollercoaster 2023-24 season? Remember, anything can happen in hockey, just like the Babcock almost-hirings!