Brad Larsen has some staffing work to complete.
The new head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets has yet to name either of his two assistant coaches, which isn't a surprise given the Stanley Cup Playoffs are ongoing.
Being a first-time head coach at the NHL level, it may make sense for Larsen to bring in some experience. On the other hand, the Blue Jackets probably won't break the bank for assistant coaches as they undergo some potentially lean years. Here are three candidates who make sense to join Larsen's staff:
Groulx, 53, has been the head coach of the AHL's Syracuse Crunch for the past four seasons. As part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's organization, Groulx has been instrumental in developing key talent for a Lightning team that is threatening to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
The Blue Jackets are in dire need of a coach who can help its young players reach their fullest potential. Groulx, with nearly 20 consecutive years of head coaching experience, between the AHL and the QMJHL, fits the bill.
Knoblauch, 42, has been the head coach of AHL Hartford for the past two seasons. Earlier this year, he was promoted to coach the New York Rangers when their entire coaching staff went on leave due to Covid-19 protocols. In his stint, Knoblauch showed well for himself, highlighted by a debuting win in which his Rangers pounded the Philadelphia Flyers in a 9-0 rout.
Coincidentally, Knoblauch's only prior NHL coaching experience came with the Flyers, as he served as an assistant coach for two years from 2017-2019. Knoblauch is seen as a coach on the rise, and his proximity to John Davidson cannot be discounted.
Vincent, 49, has been the head coach of the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Jets AHL team, for four years. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Jets for five seasons. In May, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun wrote: "Honestly surprised he still hasn’t got his shot in the bigs as a head coach." And while this wouldn't be a 'shot' at the head coaching job in Columbus, it would be a return to the NHL.
In projecting these coaches, I'm clearly taking a developmental stance. The Blue Jackets are squarely in growth mode and should hire accordingly. Promoting some of the top coaches in the AHL, all of whom have sufficient experience, should give the organization the right tone behind the bench as they enter into a new era.