So Far, So Good: Head Coach Brad Larsen Is Doing And Saying The Right Things As The Season Nears

By Ed Francis on October 2, 2021 at 10:15 am
Head coach Brad Larsen is making the right moves early in his tenure as the Blue Jackets bench boss.
Carlos Osorio (AP)

He was not the most popular choice to become the next Columbus Blue Jackets head coach, but give credit when credit is due: Brad Larsen is off to a good start.

Larsen, who was promoted from an assistant role to head coach in June, was thought to be a courtesy interview when the club announced that he would receive a look at the job formerly held by John Tortorella. While the Blue Jackets were generally successful with Larsen behind the bench as an assistant, the area that he coached - the forwards and the power play units - was a fairly consistent struggle for most of his tenure. 

However, with the 44-year-old Larsen now behind the wheel instead of riding shotgun, the Blue Jackets seem to be taking steps in the right direction. He's yet to coach a game that matters, so we'll see over the next couple of months exactly what kind of head coach Larsen is, but here's what we know so far:

  • Less than a month after assuming the role of head coach, the tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks shocked the Blue Jackets and the hockey world. Larsen immediately drove to Michigan and spent three days with helping out however possible at the home of goaltending coach Manny Legace, where the accident took place. "A gigantic, huge thank you to Brad Larsen," said team president John Davidson in the days after Kivlenieks passing. "He has been there with families, and supporting and leading and showing compassion. This is a spectacular person for what he’s done."
  • On the ice, Larsen is keeping it loose and fun for the players, something that happened less frequently with Tortorella. Everyone has their own opinions about how a team should conduct itself during practices and throughout training camp, but reading between the lines, Larsen seems to have found a good balance between hard work and creating a relaxed atmosphere. 
  • Lars also seems to be adjusting his coaching style to the skillset of his players. That's important, and often necessary with players such as Patrik Laine on the team. Having a playmaker like Jake Voracek to let Laine really get into his comfort zone is something that can't be coached. It's never a good idea to let the coach take a backseat, but it's equally bad to force the players into the back seat. Indications throughout camp so far is that there's been a fair level of give and take, and that is likely to create mutual respect. 
  • Giving praise to young players can be a huge boost of confidence. When asked about the shot of 20-year-old Yegor Chinakhov, who seems destined to make the opening night roster, Larsen referred to as a "lethal shot." When discussing the chances that Chinakhov and 18-year-old Cole Sillinger would get in the weeks leading up to the season, Larsen made it clear they'll have the same chance as everyone else. “I’m excited to watch them play," said Larsen. "There is a lot to be excited about with these two young men. Are they ready for it? We’re going to see.”