The Columbus Blue Jackets’ head coaching search has concluded, the team announced on Thursday evening. They hired 44-year-old, Nakusp, Canada, native, and long-time assistant coach Brad Larsen from within the organization to be the next head coach for the club.
The hire comes after a month-long search since John Tortorella and the team parted ways after the 2020-21 season. Tortorella went 227-166-54 with four postseason appearances in six seasons with Columbus. Larsen will become the eighth head coach in franchise history, agreeing to a three-year contract through the 2023-24 season.
Larsen Has Big Shoes to Fill and a Lot to Prove
Larsen becomes the head coach of a young team that had their fair share of struggles this past season. There is also no doubt he has big shoes and expectations to fill.
Tortorella, the winningest coach in Blue Jackets history, brought a winning culture and expectation amongst fans with accomplishments, such as the sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019, a 16-game win streak with the franchise’s best season in 2016-17, and four straight playoff berths. Larsen will be expected to continue where Tortorella left off.
Larsen will also have a lot to prove, especially to the fans, many of which were unhappy about the hire. Most of the uncertainty stems from the team’s struggles on the power play, a unit he oversaw as an assistant coach during their struggles. Many fans cite the lack of adjustments and change on the struggling power play as a red flag.
Brad Larsen’s Hockey Experience Goes Way Back
Before his NHL debut, Larsen played with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, won two gold medals with Team Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championships in 1996 and 1997, and was team captain for Team Canada in 1997.
Larsen was originally drafted in 1995 by the Ottawa Senators 53rd overall and was later drafted by the Colorado Avalanche at 87th overall in 1997.
Larsen played 12 seasons (1997-2010) in the NHL for the Avalanche (including the 2001 Stanley Cup championship team) and Atlanta Thrashers. He recorded 19 goals and 29 assists in 294 NHL games.
Larsen’s Time With the Blue Jackets
Larsen’s roots with the Blue Jackets go way back. He spent two seasons as head coach with Columbus’ former AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. There he coached Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner and claimed two of only three division titles won by a Blue Jackets affiliate.
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Larsen has spent seven seasons as an assistant coach for the Blue Jackets, spending time under Todd Richards and Tortorella. In that time, he helped the team claim a record of 269-208-59, five winning seasons, and four straight Stanley Cup Playoff berths.
What’s Next for the Blue Jackets and Larsen
Now it is time for Larsen and the Blue Jackets to get to work. Larsen will focus on improving the power play and solving the infamous puzzle in Columbus and how to keep star players and talent. He will also work to fill Tortorella’s shoes and prove the many fans criticizing the hire wrong.
The team will hold a press conference on Friday morning with Larsen, GM Jarmo Kekäläinen, and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. It will start at 10 a.m.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.