Update (4:29 PM): Ansar Khan has Babcock’s response here. He’s also got a response from Chelios to go with the response St. James already listed at that link I failed to include earlier. Sorry about that.Â – Matt
Helene St. James reports some inane comments from famed motor mouth Jeremy Roenick in which the washed up Shark puts on a pulling-back-the-curtain act on the relationship between Chris Chelios and Mike Babcock. Basically, he accuses Babcock of disliking Americans, and specifically Chris Chelios. His feelings about Chelios are, according to Roenick, just shy of hatred.
Okay. Is there some evidence that Chelios and Babcock are not big buds? Sure. But I highly doubt there’s anything to the anti-American charge. I suggest instead that their issues stem from Babcock’s apparent antipathy toward entrenched veterans. Anyone who watched the end of the Shanahan and Yzerman era in Detroit probably knows what I’m talking about. He definitely prefers young blood and is not a fan of veteran-coach clashes. Chelios is a pretty singular guy and having been around the block many times, he may not be the most coachable player Babcock’s ever had.
The simple fact of the matter is Babcock gets over his preference for young guns when he has veterans on hand who are either too good to put in the dog house (Lidstrom, Osgood), or fully bought into his system (Draper, Maltby, Drake). Chelios no longer fits into either category.
As to the anti-American crap, exhibits 1 and 2 in Babcock’s defense: Brett Lebda and Justin Abdelkader. Sure, Lebs has been in Babcock’s dog house many times, but those stints can just as easily be attributed to his on-ice play as anything else. Why go to anti-Americanism? Brett always gets out, and is currently holding down the fort on the third pairing. As for Abdelkader, Babs is wild about him. Sure, a lot of that is his youth and the fact that he’s a young gun, but if his dislike of Americans were so strong, that wouldn’t matter.
(Update: Major brain cramp on my part–there’s also Conklin, who nearly took the starting job from Osgood, and Rafalski, who’s never had any trouble with Babcock that I’ve ever picked up on, and who doesn’t go to the doghouse even when he throws the occassional turnover party.)
A point in favor of Roenick is Mathieu Schneider. He and Babcock apparently never got along all that well, but again, that’s something that can be marked down to Schneider’s veteran status, as well as his penchant for taking nasty penalties.
Roenick wouldn’t make these claims for the heck of it, but it seems to me he’s just misinterpreting things. Unless he’s personally been discrimminated against, I’m going to go ahead and dismiss his claims. He should take a page from Chelios’ book and be professional enough to not bad mouth someone without concrete evidence. He stops himself just short of elaborating, but even going this far is disrespectful and smacks of attention whoring. You’ll get your commentator job, JR. Don’t worry.