Led by Colaiacovo, ex-players slam Babcock and his treatment of them
Former Red Wing Carlo Colaiacovo, left, on Mike Babcock: “I played with guys in Detroit that hated him.”
Former Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said Red Wings players asked management to fire Mike Babcock annually during his stint as Red Wings coach from 2005-06 to 2014-15.
Babcock was recently fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Colaiacovo is just one of Babcock’s former players who are lining up to have their say about Babcock, who has been long known to be abrasive with his players.
The biggest individual allegation about Babcock so far has come from Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner. The Toronto Sun reported that, when Marner was a rookie, Babcock asked him to rate the work ethic of each of his teammates. Babcock then shared that information with other players behind Marner’s back.
Marner has confirmed the report.
Colaiacovo played six regular-season games and nine in the playoffs with the Red Wings and had a stint in Grand Rapids during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, after signing with Detroit as a free agent.
“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 told 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.”
Babcock won more games for the Red Wings than any coach in franchise history, won the 2008 Stanley Cup, reached the Cup Final the following season and went to the Western Conference Final in 2007.
Colaiacovo also played with Toronto, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Buffalo during a 13-year career from 2002-03 to 2015-16.
“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."
Colaiacovo said that when he got that chance to sign with Detroit as a free agent, he really wanted to play for the Red Wings but was concerned about playing for Babcock because of the coach’s reputation for the way he treated players.
“This isn’t a one-off ...,” Colaiacovo said. “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."
Mark Fraser, who was cut by Babcock on a professional tryout in training camp with the Maple Leafs in 2015 after playing for Toronto earlier in his career, is among that group. He said in series of tweets:
“We share stories throughout the years with each other and for those outside the locker rooms, you will never truly understand some of the terrible undeserving things Babs has done to his some of his players. You don’t have to like all your coaches, but he is one who 95 percent of his players can’t say a good thing about. With the ability to end players careers, he’s chosen to do so to long serving vets that have resulted in all his players turning against him. He’s used his power to turn teammates against each other, and choose to continuously lie to his players.”
Babcock has not publicly commented about the criticisms from his former players. Marner and Babcock cleared the air on the incident during Marner’s rookie year and are on good terms.