Columbus Blue Jackets’ head coach Brad Larsen has been with the team since 2014 when they hired him as an assistant coach. Now seven years later and after a promotion to head coach, we are seeing a side to him we haven’t seen in public before.
It turns out Larsen is quite funny.
When Larsen First Arrived
You can recall the reaction when the Larsen hiring first broke. Fans were outraged. John Tortorella, the team’s most successful head coach to date, moved on. It was time. Coaches like Gerard Gallant were available for hiring. Instead, the Blue Jackets decided to stay in house and hire Larsen to be Tortorella’s replacement.
I’m not sure one positive word came out from fans. This was the same coach who oversaw the dreadful power play that’s plagued the Blue Jackets for multiple seasons. Why are they hiring this guy when he couldn’t even get anything consistent out of that unit?
Larsen took a lot of heat for their poor performance. Only some of it was on him. The players had to execute and more often than not, they didn’t. So to lay it all at his feet is unfair.
And as it turns out, Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets seemed to know what they were getting in hiring Larsen to be the next head coach. They’ve been with him for seven years. They interviewed other candidates but said that no one exceeded “the Lars Bar.” Clearly they believed in him and his vision for the team.
At least early on as we’re wrapping the preseason up, things seem to be going well for Larsen. He’s even showing some personality to us when we talk to him. It’s a side we haven’t seen over the years since the assistant coaches usually don’t talk to the media. Perhaps that will start to change his perception amongst the fans over time. He’s off to a good start in that regard.
Recent Examples of Larsen’s Personality
This trend actually started back on media day. Yours truly got to ask Larsen a question about his handling of young players and making mistakes. His answer made everyone in the room laugh. The clip below starts at 35:30.
“Yeah I think if they make a mistake, that’s it they won’t play anymore for a lot of games,” Larsen said with a serious face. Then he chuckled. The whole room joined in laughter. It was our first glimpse into how he would handle the media. It was also the first time we’ve seen some of his personality.
Would this be a trend with him? Would we see some other deadpan humorous moments in his availabilities? Well earlier on Saturday, Larsen again dropped a moment of brevity with the media. This time he was asked why Zach Werenski was being held out of Saturday’s preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think we are starting to see a trend. And it’s wonderful.
“Zach’s a really good player. He’s going to make our team. I liked his camp. You can put that in pen,” Larsen told the media. Werenski is actually being held out because they want to look at other guys for possible final roster decisions. But again, we are seeing a side of Larsen that we’ve not seen on this side of the spectrum. Those on the inside know this. But fans now see that there is much, much more to Larsen than associating him with power-play failures of yesteryear.
In fact, although it’s preseason so sample size warning, the Blue Jackets’ power play has been great. The puck movement is much better and all five guys on the top unit have at least one goal in the preseason on the man advantage. And this is with Larsen as HEAD COACH. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT, FANS?
The Real Work Begins Now
At least to start, Larsen has shown some personality while saying all the right things. But now the real work begins starting this Thursday with their home opener against the Arizona Coyotes. We’ll continue learning about him and his style as we go.
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But what a breath of fresh air it is to see this side of Larsen. There was a reason the Blue Jackets thought highly enough of him to hire him. They think he’s the right fit at the right time for this team. Who knows exactly where this season ends up going? But the one thing we know now is that Larsen is ready to go and give this his best shot. He’ll do so being his own man and showing his own personality. So far, that personality comes with some humor.
We could all use a little humor in our lives, right?
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.