Let's Debate: Maybe Brad Larsen's Virtue Of Patience For Player Development Isn't Such A Bad Idea? On The Other Hand...

By Will Chase on November 25, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Florida Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save on Columbus Blue Jackets' Kent Johnson in the third period at Nationwide Arena.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports
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How many times have you screamed at your TV, or from your seats in the arena, telling a player to "SHOOT?"

Or how many times have you cursed your computer or phone because you don't agree with the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup?

We're not players or coaches but we've all been there. Sometimes, it really might be that easy. We hear those clichés like "Get pucks to the net" and "keep things simple" or something to that effect. This isn't even wrong to say as it's so straightforward.

We're definitely not going to be confused for coaches, and for all the criticism, and credit, the fans, the media, and all those outside of the locker room give a coach, a player, and a team as a whole, we can probably all agree we don't know as much as an established NHL coach.

Even if the overall record isn't all that glamorous, a coach is a chock full of hockey knowledge. They're armed with all the kinds of raw statistical data, insight, and know-how that the general public doesn't necessarily have access to.

Head coach Brad Larsen addressed one popular elephant in the room in the past week when getting to the crux of the Blue Jackets' development, namely with the likes of rookie forward Kent Johnson.

I think if they play him with the right linemates...if they play him at the top of the lineup...if they play him on the first power play, he’s going to have a good year.

I think (Johnson) is capable of playing with those kinds of linemates. He's not a guy who is built for playing in a third-line role.

And whether he sees Johnson as a center or winger.

I tend to like players like him at center. Just because he gets more touches, he has a feel for the puck more often, but I fully expect that he's going to be an NHL winger.

I just think because of how skinny he is, NHL coaches are going to see him walk into the locker room and say that's not the kind of player that we want scrapping and fighting and playing against 210-pound centers in the NHL.

Most centers in the NHL nowadays are pretty thick guys. And that's just not (Johnson). He's always struggled to put on weight. He's a very sort of wiry guy. And I think that game lends itself to playing on the flanks, less defensive responsibility, that kind of thing. So I expect he’ll be a winger even if he's probably a slightly more productive player down the middle.

Larsen's quote continued.

Personally speaking, I was right there with most of the crowd clamoring for more.

Gaudreau - Jenner - Johnson (5v5) GP TOI GF GA xGF xGA
via Natural Stat Trick 16 4:58 1 0 0.1 0.13
Gaudreau - Jenner - Johnson (All Situations) GP TOI GF GA xGF xGA
via Natural Stat Trick 16 17:52 4 1 2.42 1.17

As the trio has shown in a small sample together on the ice, and as we've seen, both with the eye test and analytically, they've performed admirably. On the other hand, maybe the idea of bringing Johnson along slowly and preaching patience isn't wrong if he's being propped by timely, situational, awareness. 

Many hyped prospects have failed in their Blue Jackets tenure. Others have had to overcome adversity and find their game, such as the recently demoted Emil Bemstrom.

Robinson - Kuraly - Olivier (5v5) GP TOI GF GA xGF xGA
via Natural Stat Trick 14 125:40 6 6 5.25 6.87
Robinson - Kuraly - Olivier (All Situations) GP TOI GF GA xGF xGA
via Natural Stat Trick 14 128:16 6 6 5.25 7.08
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Even if that means towing the delicate balance of rewarding his players' play, developing emerging talents, and going against the conventional wisdom on social media in how he utilizes young players. Or what is ultimately greater for the direction of the organization in the big picture.

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