It's a new era in Columbus.
The face of the new direction of the Blue Jackets is recognizable to many, due to the 11 years that he's spent with the organization. Brad Larsen is stepping into the reigns as the eighth head coach in Blue Jackets history, after spending the last seven as an assistant coach with Columbus.
He spent the last six years working with John Tortorella, and Larsen acknowledged that Tortorella has been a big part of his life, both hockey-wise and in his personal life. In Larsen's introductory press conference on Friday, he got emotional talking about how much Tortorella means to him.
"He's a special man, let's put it that way," said Larsen of Tortorella. "He means a lot to me and my family. I will be forever in his debt.”
Despite their deep connection, Larsen has to go forward and write his own chapter at the helm of the Blue Jackets. That doesn't mean that he has to forget all that he's learned from Tortorella (and Todd Richards), but it's his time now.
“Torts is Torts,” said Larsen. “You don’t try to copy the man’s style at all. The advice I got when I started coaching was to always be true to yourself, and that’s what I’m going to be. I’m my own man. But I would have been a fool to not learn under him and Todd Richards, right?
During his introduction, both John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen talked about how impressed they were with Larsen, and confirmed their belief that he's the right man for the job.
“We had this term, the ‘Lars bar,'” said Kekalainen. “Nobody seemed to get over the ‘Lars bar.’ The more and more we thought about it, everything we know about the man and his passion for the game, his work ethic, his attention to detail, his communication skills...we thought he was the best choice for us."
The Blue Jackets are poised to enter a rebuild, no matter how many times that Kekalainen and Davidson want to term it a reload. The club is miles and miles away in terms of its roster when you compare it to Vegas, Colorado, Tampa Bay, or Carolina, for example. With that in mind, Larsen makes sense as the choice to run the ship while the Blue Jackets work on development. He knows the club, is on good terms with the front office, and is very excited to be in Columbus.
"When you think of Brad Larsen, you think of a leader...we wanted character," said Davidson. "Other teams did call, trying to get interviews with Lars for open positions across the league, and we found a way to get Brad with the Columbus Blue Jackets."
There was a theme throughout Larsen's introduction, from himself, Davidson, and Kekalainen. It was passion. All three men are fired up about this opportunity for Larsen, and he has the unequivocal backing of the front office, as well as the players. Cam Atkinson, Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins, Patrik Laine, and Gustav Nyquist attended the press conference in a show of support for Larsen.
It's an exciting new time for the Blue Jackets, and Brad Larsen will be at the helm as the club begins a new era.