The Blue Jackets called it an “exhaustive” search for their first head coach after parting ways with John Tortorella, but they didn’t end up casting their gaze that far. Ultimately, they promoted from within, as the Blue Jackets named longtime assistant Brad Larsen as their new head coach.
“We underwent an exhaustive process in which we looked very closely at a number of outstanding candidates to be the next coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the one individual we kept coming back to throughout was Brad Larsen,” GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “Brad was one of the top young coaches in the American Hockey League when he joined our club as an assistant coach and over the past seven years has earned the respect of our players, staff and organization with his work ethic, hockey acumen and the way he treats people, and we couldn’t be more pleased to introduce him as our next head coach.”
Newly reinstalled Blue Jackets exec John Davidson added that Larsen “shares our values and vision.”
Blue Jackets promote Brad Larsen as head coach after search
Larsen, 43, certainly should be familiar with the Blue Jackets organization.
Larsen gained some experience at the AHL level with the Springfield Falcons, the Blue Jackets’ affiliate. As an assistant, he spent one year under Todd Richards, then six seasons with John Tortorella.
It will be interesting, then, to see if this means smaller changes for the way Columbus plays, or if Larsen nonetheless has bigger structure alterations in mind.
After looking at his jagged NHL career, it seems reasonable to assume that Larsen will be able to identify with “journeyman” players. He was drafted twice (53rd overall by the Senators in 1995; 87th by the Avalanche in 1997). From there, he bounced between the AHL and NHL levels for the Avalanche, and then the Atlanta Thrashers.
According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Blue Jackets conducted two interviews with at least three head coach candidates: Larsen, Gerard Gallant, and Rick Tocchet. Portzline reports that others might have been interviewed, as well, but could not confirm names. Read more about the Blue Jackets’ process here (sub required).
Will the Blue Jackets be glad they promoted from within by naming Larsen as their new head coach? Could he relate better to players, so Columbus ideally stops losing key stars, possibly continuing with Seth Jones? Would a bigger name like Gallant have made a bigger statement about this franchise’s ambitions?
We’ll find out. The Blue Jackets were pretty proactive with this process, though; they now have their head coach situation settled comfortably before the 2021 NHL Draft weekend. Maybe Larsen can give some feedback on possible Seth Jones trade returns?