By now, you’re surely aware of the slew of negative press that former Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has been getting since getting fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.
Former NHL player Mike Commodore absolutely blasted the coach, while reports came out that the majority of Leafs players were happy with his firing. Another bizarre story surfaced alleging that Babcock had humiliated then-rookie Mitch Marner by asking him to “to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic” – and then presenting the list to the team.
And now, you can add another one of his former players who is piling on him.
Carlo Colaiacovo, who played for the Red Wings during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, said that Babcock once questioned his toughness and work ethic – and that apparently, several players on the team at the time lobbied for management to fire him.
“I’m not going to go out on a limb and say he’s a bad guy, because that’s not my place. I only played for him for less than half a season, but I can understand why people say he’s a bad guy,” Colaiacovo explained during an interview with TSN. “I played with guys in Detroit that hated him. I told you that every year in Detroit the leaders would go in and try to get him fired, but Kenny Holland wouldn’t even entertain that conversation because he knew what he was getting as a coach.”
“This is about a guy in Mike Babcock who uses fear and a sense of being uncomfortable as, I don’t even know if it’s a motivational (thing), but he uses it as a strategy with his players,” said Colaiacovo. “Maybe that is something that worked back in the day, but in today’s generational type of player, the young generation, the young superstars, the way the game has changed, I just don’t understand when you listen to all of this — and I have been aware of this (Marner story) for the last year or so, I don’t know why this has come out now.
I’ve known about this for a long time. And I’ve known about other things that Mike Babcock has done to players that he’s coached and players that have played for him that haven’t even scratched the surface … There’s gotta be something said about … the way players that have played for Mike Babcock feel about him.”
Colaicovo had always dreamed of wearing the Winged Wheel – but playing under Mike Babcock wasn’t a part of that dream.
“When I signed with Detroit, my biggest thing is that I really wanted to play for the Red Wings, but I was also very worried about playing for Mike Babcock because of the players that played for him, the things that they were saying about him, how he’s ‘not a good person,’ how he ‘doesn’t treat guys with respect,’ how he singles guys out, how he makes examples of players,” he explained. “This isn’t a one-off … if you talk to a lot of players that have played for Mike Babcock, they will all share the same sentiment: Good coach, but very, very questionable with the things he does to certain people.”
The last time a Mike Babcock-coached team advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was in 2013 when the Red Wings lost in Game 7 of the conference semi-finals to the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Coloaiacovo’s contract was then bought out – he was disappointed, but still believed in his ability to play.
“I came into Detroit last summer because I knew I was a top-four guy that could play in a situation there,” Colaiacovo said. “I went through some difficulties last year that I would rather not talk about, but I still believe that I’m a guy who can play top-four on any team. I believe that I’ve proved that through my play, but they have some young guys who they relied upon real hard and some guys that they’re going to lean towards next year. So who knows where I would have fit in there? … I still believe in myself, I believe in my abilities that I can help a team win. We were a game away from eliminating the Blackhawks this year and who knows where that could have led us to, but I consider myself a big part of that.”