On Thursday the Columbus Blue Jackets made the announcement of their new head coach. It was not something shiny and new like a Gerrard Gallant or Rick Tocchet as many had hoped, it was the internal promotion of Brad Larsen.
Much to the chagrin of seemingly everyone outside the walls of the Blue Jackets HQ, the move has struck the ire of a startling amount of fans and those closely vested to the team. After general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson conducted their search, it was Larsen who set the bar that no one else could top. Larsen becomes the 8th head coach in franchise history after a long tenure with the club. 11 years in total, with the past seven as NHL assistant coach with the majority of that tenure being under John Tortorella.
In many ways, the move seems like the right fit for the club. While it certainly does not appear that there will be a big departure in culture from the Tortorella era with this move – and honestly why should there be? – Larsen does bring success with him, notably from his time in the AHL. After taking over as head coach, Larsen guided the Springfield Falcons to a pair of division titles snapping a postseason drought that lasted 9 seasons and making the postseason only once in the past 12. He helped guide a team that finished the 2011-12 season with 78 points bounce back the following season with 99 and then topped it the next season with 100.
During his tenure with the Blue Jackets affiliate he coached players like Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, David Savard, Matt Calvert, and now Vegas Golden Knights standout Jonathan Marchessault to name a few. There is a level of familiarity that goes beyond just the NHL level for players on the roster which was evident during Friday’s introductory press conference where Atkinson spoke highly of the new coach.
“I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with how he goes about his business, and holds that standard and accountability and is very approachable,” Atkinson said. “There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, no matter what. I’m excited for him.”
“I know that (Larsen) is the right man for this job,” Atkinson said, “and ultimately will hopefully lead us to bring a Stanley Cup back to our fans here.”
Sure the concerns and ire from the fans over the powerplay are well warranted as the Blue Jackets have suffered near bottom rankings with Larsen at the helm of that role. One thing for certain is that he did not shy away or dodge criticism of his past strategies with the man advantage. Hopefully with adding the right pieces to his staff to handle those responsibilities being delegated, we’ll see a righting of the ship in that regard.
For now, we look towards the future with hope and expectation that Larsen can turn the page towards better days like he did when going from assistant to head coach with the Falcons.Embed from Getty Images