The Columbus Blue Jackets coaching search has unceremoniously come to a close. They have named former assistant Brad Larsen coach in a somewhat surprising move.
The focus will now go to what Larsen is going to do as a coach. There were plenty of thoughts on what John Tortorella did as a coach but not much is known about Larsen and what his philosophies will be. His last head coaching stop was in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons back when they were the Blue Jackets affiliate.
So now it needs to be deciphered with what is fair to expect from him. To really get into the weeds on it, you have to think of it in two different sections.
The Modern Era
To really think about the Blue Jackets, you have to think of them from 2000-2012 and part of 2012 on to the current day. The expectations for both sides were roughly the same but regardless, after 2012, more was expected from the coaches.
Within the first year for Todd Richards and John Tortorella, both had made their mark in different ways.
Richards was an interim coach who took over for Scott Arniel halfway through the season. Richards didn't do particularly well during his interim spell but in the lockout-shortened season from 2012-13, he put up a point percentage just under .600. From then on, that was the norm for Richards. He was able to get the most out of his players and in spats, the Blue Jackets were excellent. The consistency later in his tenure ended up being more of a problem than realized and after he started 0-7 was canned in favor of Tortorella.
Tortorella even with a shortened campaign after taking over for Richards was able to keep the team above .500 for the entirety of his tenure except for the most recent 2021 campaign. The 2016-17 season where the Blue Jackets reached 108 points was the highest win percentage in Tortorella's career even better than his Stanley Cup-winning season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Richards and Tortorella definitively raised the bar for coaches in Columbus. Both approached the game in different ways but winning was the common thread between them.
The Dark Ages
Now on the other side of the coin, you have the Scott Arniel's, the Ken Hitchcock's, and the Gerard Gallant's of the world that did not perform well with the Blue Jackets.
Hitchcock led the Blue Jackets to the playoffs in his third year with the team and maybe the best comp to what we are currently seeing with Larsen. Obviously, the pedigree is different but Hitchcock had to deal with an influx of rookies and a partial rebuild to shape the team up in his image.
Given that this is a three-year contract, the expectations are going to likely be similar and the leash will likely be the same as well. It would be foolish to allow a similar trajectory as other coaches that the Blue Jackets had during their opening years. If they do this rebuild right, they are looking at a couple of years of bad hockey and then a third year that hopefully gives you a light at the end of the tunnel.
Offseason Dictates It All
The real crux of it all will be how the Blue Jackets proceed with their players this offseason. If they begin to sell off players en masse then Larsen is going to be the person to steer this ship through turbulent waters and also guide them through a rebuild that may last a couple of seasons.
If they keep most of the team around, there is enough talent here to definitely finish better than they did last season. It is all going to be relative and it is going to come down to how management sets him up. If he performs above expectations that is great but until this offseason wraps up, it isn't known what the plan is and it is going to take some time to get to the other side of the tunnel.
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