Detractors of NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury have finally gotten their wish. Today’s broadcasting roster confirms that Milbury, who in August said the lack of women in the NHL bubble would help the players’ concentration, will no longer be with the network.
Be careful what you wish for, though, because one bad Mike has been replaced with another: Milbury’s replacement as studio analyst is legendarily disliked former coach Mike Babcock.
In December 2019, former Red Wings player Johan Franzen called Babcock “the worst [person] I have ever met” in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen. “He’s a bully who was attacking people,” Franzen said. “It could be a cleaner at the arena in Detroit or anybody. He would lay into people without any reason.”
Franzen, who retired in 2015 because of repeated concussions, said that it got to the point in 2011 where he would dread waking up and going to the rink. He said Babcock would verbally belittle a number of players but focused on him, and those memories stuck with him for a long time. His former teammate Chris Chelios shared a story about Babcock berating Franzen on the bench until he had a nervous breakdown during a 2012 playoff series against the Nashville Predators.
After not receiving a contract extension, Babcock left the Red Wings in May 2015 and took the head coaching position in Toronto. The most notable part about his Maple Leafs stint, which ended with the team firing him in November 2019, was reported after it was over: The Toronto Sun revealed that Babcock had asked then-rookie Mitch Marner to rank all his teammates in terms of their effort. After Marner did that because he felt like he had no other choice, Babcock shared the results with the players ranked at the bottom of the list, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak, who were angrier that the coach had suggested the assignment in the first place.
Babcock has been out of the NHL since Toronto fired him, so this TV gig is his first step back in. NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood did not provide a useful answer on whether Babcock would address his past. If the role of a studio analyst is to provide insight into what players might be thinking, Babcock doesn’t seem to be the one to do it, as proven by his recent work experience.