COLUMBUS -- Mike Babcock said the Columbus Blue Jackets were the right team at the right time to return to the NHL as a coach.

The 60-year-old was officially introduced as Blue Jackets coach on Saturday, returning behind the bench in the NHL for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Babcock, who received a two-year contract, replaces Brad Larsen, who was fired April 15.

Since he was fired as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 20, 2019, Babcock had been a volunteer coach at two universities, spent time with his family and hunted on his farm near Cincinnati, among other things.

Babcock said his daughter helped him realize that he needed to evolve his coaching methods.

"I think the first thing is my daughter has this line she uses with me all the time she says, 'Dad, it's not what you say. It's your tone.' You know, I'm a straightforward guy. Honest, hard-working, enthusiastic," Babcock said. "But the message sent and the message received often isn't the same.

"So, you're talking to a young man and you think you had a great meeting and then you find out later as he talks to one of the assistant coaches, 'Oh, 'Babs' was all over me.' See, I didn't think I was. The ability to communicate and send the right message that you want to send and do it in a way that's totally respectful. To me, this what the last three-and-a half years have been about."

He last coached at the University of Saskatchewan on a full-time volunteer basis for two seasons before resigning Aug. 25, 2022.

Babcock had previously been a volunteer coach for the University of Vermont. The experiences working with young players has helped him evolve.

"It was pure joy," he said. "I loved being around the kids. I've been around my last couple opportunities with college kids, and it's different, for sure," Babcock said. "What I do know is, when you have 23 different guys on your team, you need 23 different ways to approach them. You need a communication plan with each one, a development plan with each one, you need a mental health plan with each one to have success. I couldn't have said what I just said to you now 10 years ago, because I didn't know that.

"When you go to a university setting, they have all these experts in all these fields, right there. They help you get better. I had some good relationships with people there and they teach you a lot about the way you communicate. I think it's important that you continue to grow."

Mike Babcock named coach of the Blue Jackets

Babcock, who is 700-418-164 with 19 ties in his career, ranks 12th in NHL history in wins. He has coached 1,301 games (16th) in 17 seasons for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Babcock is 90-74 in 164 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008 and guiding the Mighty Ducks (2003) and Red Wings (2009) to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We are convinced we got the best coach for the job," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "His coaching achievements talk for themselves. Everybody knows that, but I am also convinced that he's the right person, the right man for the job, and that's really important. Our organization has some strong values that are never compromised and they're non-negotiable."

The Blue Jackets will have a new look on the ice this season as well. They upgraded at defenseman by trading for Ivan Provorov in a three-team deal with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings on June 6. Three days later, they acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils and signed him to an eight-year, $50 million contract. Columbus also selected forward Video: Mike Babcock named coach of the Blue Jackets with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract Saturday.

The Blue Jackets went 25-48-9 in 2022-23, last in the Eastern Conference and 31st in the NHL, ahead of only the Ducks, despite signing forward Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year contract and restricted free agent forward Patrik Laine to a four-year contract last offseason, They missed the playoffs for the third straight season following four consecutive appearances.

Gaudreau led the Blue Jackets with 74 points (21 goals, 53 assists) and Laine was second with 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists). However, Columbus had more than 550 man-games lost to injury, including defenseman Zach Werenski, who was limited to 13 games. The Blue Jackets were 30th in the NHL in goals per game (2.60) and 31st in goals-against (4.01).

"This fan base has stuck with this team," Babcock said. "It's actually scary how great the fans have been for this team.

Babcock said Saturday he got the coaching bug again when he helped his son, Michael, work with the Ottawa Senators coaching staff with pre-scouting and on-ice skill development. Michael Babcock was hired by the St. Louis Blues as a skills coach June 14.

"We're excited. There's a ton of kids. [The Blue Jackets] been drafting well for a while," Babcock said. "Now we have to maximize their potential. We got to get them to grow as individuals and as a team but it's exciting for me to get to know the coaches, all the management team, everybody in town here."

The key is communication, he said.

"You got to get to know these guys one on one and every player's different. Some guys don't want to come into your office. Some guys want to talk to you on the ice. Some guys want to have a coffee with you. So, you have to learn," Babcock said. "And if you look at just the guys here, every one of them communicates differently and I have to do a real good job of doing that. And whatever they're comfortable with, I'm comfortable. So whatever they're comfortable with, but the better you get to know them, the more we can help.

"And they all want to be great. There isn't one guy wearing that uniform, doesn't want to be great and they want to have a bounce back year so it's my job to help them do that."

He understands that Blue Jackets players might be apprehensive about his hire.

"I think anything new can make you nervous. There's expectations, so we'll have to work at that," Babcock said. "But when you think about it, if you're a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets, you don't know what to expect either. What I know is I'm going to bring here a work ethic, honesty, every single day and over a couple of months we're all going to get to know each other and then you get to form your own opinion. The fans are going to do that, the players are going to do that. It's not what I say. It's what I do."

He said years away from the NHL were a "godsend."

"I think it's real important for all of us as people, we've got to change every year," he said. "We've got to grow. I used to say the offseason was a chance to reinvent yourself, but what's happened to me over the last 3-1/2 years, it's been a thrill to be around my family so much, but I got a couple of really good opportunities."