How close was Mike Babcock to coaching the New York Rangers?

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets announce Mike Babcock as Head Coach
The Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Rangers averted the catastrophe of hiring head coach Mike Babcock not once, but twice.

Prior to naming Peter Laviolette the 37th head coach in franchise history, reports surfaced that a few in the organization wanted Babcock to be considered for the role. That news was immediately met with some backlash.

“Not everyone in the Rangers organization wanted to do Babcock,” NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman said. “But I think there were some who wanted to pursue it.”

The question arose, who in management wanted Babcock as the next coach? At the time, I wrote that all signs seemed to point to owner James Dolan’s advisor and former GM, Glen Sather.

In a new book by now retired reporter Rick Carpiniello, this wasn’t the first time that Babcock was suggested to take over behind the Rangers’ bench.

Glen Sather wanted Mike Babcock to coach Rangers

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Now let’s set the scene on Broadway in May of 2021 and David Quinn along with his coaching staff are out on COVID protocol. Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch is subbing in and the Rangers go 4-2 during that time, supposedly energized by Quinn’s absence.

That’s when Glen Sather suggested to James Dolan this team was ready to take it to the next level with Mike Babcock at the helm.

According to multiple sources, Sather, now supposedly retired and in an advisory role, suggested to James Dolan that the Rangers replace Quinn with Mike Babcock, the antithesis of a teaching/developmental coach; a coach who proved he could win and win big with a talented, veteran team. This was not a veteran team.

Sather suggested to John Davidson and Jeff Gorton that they make the move from Quinn to Babcock. The two men actually running the team politely declined.

The Franchise
New York Rangers: A Curated History of the Blueshirts
By Rick Carpiniello

Obviously that change never took place, but was probably one of the many reasons Dolan eventually fired both Davidson and Gorton soon after.

Flash forward to this past Sunday, with Mike Babcock resigning as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets without ever coaching a single game. Both sides mutually agreed to part ways after reports surfaced that Babcock’s request to see photos on players’ phones was not appropriate.

“Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace,” NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh said. “Unfortunately that was not the case in Columbus. The clubs decision to move forward with a new head coach is the appropriate action.”

Babcock was always going to be under major scrutiny as many of his former players spoke out against his tactics in recent years. After he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019, allegations surfaced including Johan Franzen calling him a “bully” and “the worst person I have ever met.”

In hindsight, not hiring Babcock was the right move then. After all that’s transpired in recent days, it’s even more so today.

Franchise: New York Rangers

Rick Carpiniello has covered the Rangers for decades with his last stop coming at The Athletic prior to retiring in 2021. This book gives fans an amazing insider’s account on some of the biggest 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.

This thoughtful and engaging collection of essays captures the astute fans’ history of the franchise, going beyond well-worn narratives of yesteryear to uncover the less-discussed moments, decisions, people, and settings that fostered the team’s iconic identity.

Through wheeling and dealing, mythmaking and community building, explore where the organization has been, how it got to prominence in the modern NHL landscape, and how it’ll continue to evolve and stay in contention for generations to come.

Rangers fans in the know will enjoy this personal, local, in-depth look at hockey history.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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