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Abel to Yzerman

Mike Babcock On Johan Franzen

from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic,

It began with former Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios going on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and alleging that Babcock had verbally assaulted Franzen during a playoff series against Nashville. Franzen, in a subsequent interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, called Babcock a “great coach,” but a “terrible person” and a “bully,” saying he suffered from verbal attacks from the coach.

Former Red Wings GM Ken Holland was asked by the Detroit Free Press last December if a player had ever come to him and accused Babcock of verbal abuse. Holland said no....

“(Franzen) had unbelievable years in Detroit,’’ Babcock said. “He was a big man with great hands. When he first came here, we thought he was a checker and he turned himself into an unbelievable player.

“When a player that you’ve coached says that about you, it stings you big time. But not only does it sting for that, if you’ve been involved with mental health like I have …'”...

“Can you imagine having someone say that about you when you have been involved in mental health as much as I have? Now, I’ve reached out to (Franzen). That’s not going to make anything go away.

“It doesn’t matter what I perceive. When you’re talking about this kind of thing, if the person — whether it’s a co-worker, your spouse, your student — if they think that’s the environment, that’s what they’re feeling. Now, I sure wish I would have known about that then. And I could have done something about that. Besides apologize, there’s not much I can do about that now. But does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely.’’

more ($$$) and Babcock addresses other topics too...

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The Meal's avatar

That was a helluva mea culpa regarding the Marner story.

Only a handful of people know the truth of these stories, and maybe nobody actually remembers the true truth (only the version of things they’ve internalized).  But as far as words out of man’s mouth to try to make things better, Babs’ apologies ring very true.

Posted by The Meal from Firestone, CO on 01/19/21 at 04:36 PM ET

calquake's avatar

But does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely.’’

Well mike, maybe now you understand how Franzen felt at the time.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Covidquake, "Stay the F away from me" on 01/19/21 at 06:53 PM ET


I don’t doubt his sincerity in advocating for mental health awareness,
funding for treatment, ending dumb stigmas, etc. and never did.

But it shows how stubborn and stuck in a rigid, dictatorial, borderline abusive
approach to coaching his own players - especially some players he was.
That kind of compartmentalization and lack of awareness is very human but
that’s little excuse for such a bright guy and one with some background in psychology. It’s not about being demanding or pushing buttons to get the best out of players. It’s about basic empathy and decency and respect. You don’t have to be every player’s best friend but you’ve gotta know - given how much time you spend with them and how much influence you have over their livelihoods when they’re hurting and need a hand rather than aggressive pressure or worse.

Babcock has got a lot of years left in the sport at a high level if he can learn from this and check his own ego a little bit and see what’s in front of him a little more clearly.

Posted by lefty.30 on 01/19/21 at 11:55 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Here’s the thing:  if it was Franzen’s word against Babcock’s, it might be one thing.  There are no lack of people on this website who questioned Franzen’s toughness and mental determination while he was playing, and I’m sure some would still go there even now.  You could even chalk it up maybe to t

It’s… tough to question Chelios though and wonder if HE was “delicate” about the whole thing.  If Chelios knows it and says that it happened, and felt it was over the line… that’s damning of Babcock, and there’s nowhere else to go then given what also happened after with Marner.  That’s CHRIS FREAKING CHELIOS saying “Man, that was not cool or ok”.

Babcock probably DOES wish he could go back and fix it.  Now.  Now that it cost him something tangible.  I don’t know that I believe he would have addressed it at the time though.  That doesn’t really fit his persona, and I doubt at the time he actually cared about any future fallout.

At the same time, it’s really hard to believe Babcock wouldn’t land another job somewhere and go right back to doing what he’s done previously.  That’s just who and what he is.

Posted by Primis on 01/20/21 at 07:52 AM ET


I think many times, emotions get involved and too many times coaches “take it out” on the players. In this day and age, especially at the NHL level with veteran players, there should be more of partnership between player and coach and less of a boss/employee relationship. Yes, a player needs to respect that the coach is tactical leader but a coach needs to communicate that in such a way as to respect the player’s commitment and skill level. A good coach can walk that line well (see Trotz, for example). A coach who is overbearing will either wear out his welcome or have a negative impact on his players.

It’s tough on the players. All their hockey lives they’ve been told to shut up and listen to the coach. But at the NHL level, these are men now who have their own strong opinions and should be given some leeway to voice it because their experience is just as valuable as a coach’s.

We’ll truly see how much Babcock has learned when he gets the next chance to coach and I’m sure he will at some point.

Posted by evileye on 01/20/21 at 11:46 AM ET

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com