Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios went on the Spittin' Chiclets podcast (h/t Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News) and said ex-Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock "verbally assaulted" forward Johan Franzen in 2012 to the point where the left wing had a nervous breakdown.
“Some of the things he (Babcock) said to him (Franzen) on the bench, I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors one-on-one, but he blatantly verbally assaulted him during the game on the bench.
“It got to the point where poor Johan, no one really knowing he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing, he just broke down and had nervous breakdown, not only on the bench but after the game in one of the rooms in Nashville."
Chelios was with the Red Wings front office at the time two years after his retirement.
Per Kulfan, Franzen has suffered from numerous concussions and had post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. He retired in 2015 after an 11-year NHL career with the Red Wings.
Per Ansar Khan of MLive.com, Chelios was asked on the podcast whether anyone confronted Babcock about the alleged behavior:
“Not really, no; guys talked amongst each other, when some things happened and there was some second guessing and it got to (former general manager) Kenny Holland, Kenny Holland came down to the room and had this speech and supported Mike Babcock. It was a great speech, but (he told) everybody in the room, ‘If you don’t like it, come up and see me and be traded.’ So that was the way it kind of ended.”
Babcock, who led the Red Wings to the 2007-08 Stanley Cup, coached in Detroit through the 2014-15 season before heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was fired Nov. 20 after a six-game losing streak dropped the Leafs to 9-10-4.
His tenure in Toronto wasn't without controversy, according to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, with one story standing out in particular from the 2016-17 season:
"Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies 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. The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom."
Mitch Marner, the then-rookie in the story, confirmed it on the record, per Adam Gretz of NBC Sports. Gretz also referenced other players who had problems with the former NHL coach:
"Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore has been Babcock’s most vocal critic on social media, while former Maple Leafs defender Mark Fraser offered a little more insight in the wake of Toronto’s coaching change this past week. Fraser said, among other things, that Babcock is a coach that '95 percent of his former players can’t say a good thing about.'"
As for Franzen, the Swede enjoyed a successful NHL career that included a key role on that 2007-08 team, and he finished his tenure with 187 goals and 183 assists. He posted a high of 34 goals and 59 points in 2008-09.
Chelios left the Red Wings front office in 2018. He played in 26 NHL seasons, made 11 All-Star Games and won three Stanley Cups.