Mike Babcock resigned as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, with the team announcing in a statement that the move is effective immediately.
The club also announced that associate coach Pascal Vincent has taken over as head coach, agreeing to a two-year contract through next season.
“This was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but one we felt necessary to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “On behalf of the entire Blue Jackets organization, we want to thank Mike for his hard work and the professionalism he has shown in working together on a plan to step down.”
The decision comes after two NHLPA executives met with Blue Jackets players Thursday to investigate whether Babcock violated players’ privacy when he asked to see photos on their cellphones, union officials told ESPN last week.
Marty Walsh, NHLPA executive director, and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey, who played three seasons with Columbus (2005-08), met with Blue Jackets players at Nationwide Arena after a morning skate. The NHLPA’s trip to Columbus wasn’t previously planned and was specifically made to further look into allegations against Babcock, who was hired in July to coach the Jackets.
Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette said on last Tuesday’s edition of the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast that Babcock asked Columbus captain Boone Jenner to show him his camera roll before displaying those photos via AirPlay on the coach’s office wall.
“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 the team’s release. “While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”