Blue Jackets' Head Coaching Vacancy An Attractive Landing Spot For The Lucky Candidate

By Will Chase on June 19, 2024 at 10:15 am
Don Waddell at his press conference introducing him as president, general manager, and alternate governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, May 29.

Another head coaching search is underway after the Columbus Blue Jackets fired Pascal Vincent after only one season on Monday.

There had been speculation about whether the Blue Jackets would make a coaching change, and new president and general manager Don Waddell decided it was time to do just that.

Whoever ends up as the 11th head coach in Blue Jackets history, that person will have a lot of young potential and talent to work with.

The next coach will be the fourth head coach hired by Columbus since the club and John Tortorella parted ways after the 2020-21 season.

  • Brad Larsen (2021-23)
  • Mike Babcock (2023)
  • Vincent (2023-24)
  • To be determined

Since the Jackets hit the reset button and began restocking its roster, we've talked quite a bit about the high draft picks, the talent, and the potential.

For the next person that comes in as the head coach, they're going to have a lot to like about this particular job.

A budding core centered around prospects like future center Adam Fantilli, veteran star power featuring Johnny Gaudreau, and a scoring sniper like Kirill Marchenko to list an appetizer of desired options for who's putting together future lineups.

Plus, there will be the fourth overall pick drafted in the next week.

Waddell said shortly after he was hired on The Jeff Marek Show that he could see as many as six new faces on the roster by the time next season gets here.

"It's gotta look different," Waddell said about the Blue Jackets roster. "We've gotta clean up like I said, we've got some contracts, and we've got some issues we've gotta figure out, and the salary cap plays a factor in that, so I think we can do some of those things.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there's a half a dozen or so new faces in the lineup."

Waddell has gone on record about fixing the goaltending and, most especially, the goals against, as the Blue Jackets were second to last in goals against per game (3.63) last season and the year prior (4.01, 2022-23).

The Cleveland Monsters made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final where they fell in seven games to the Hershey Bears.

Among those up-and-coming new faces that will be in Columbus soon are a pair of defensemen, David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk, taken sixth and 12th overall, respectively, in the 2022 draft.

Jiricek played 43 games for Columbus last season, scoring 10 points (one goal, nine assists). He scored 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 29 games for the Monsters, including 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 14 playoff games.

Mateychuk spent the last three seasons with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors and then stepped right into the playoffs for the Monsters, scoring three assists in four games.

The new coach can expect to add those two into a lineup featuring Zach Werenski.

Werenski played at least 70 games for the first time since he played all 82 games in 2018-19 and put together his best scoring season last year with 57 points and 46 assists to go with 11 goals. Werenski's 46 assists passed James Wisniewski for most assists by a defenseman in franchise history, and the 57 points tied Seth Jones for most points in a season by a defenseman.

The goaltending situation has to be addressed and Waddell mentioned in his interview with Blue Jackets radio broadcaster Bob McElligott that he previously tried acquiring Elvis Merzlikins when he was running the Carolina Hurricanes. Now, he wants to figure out how to solve the woes plaguing Merzlikins but also the goaltending situation as a whole.

Of course, there's a guy in Cleveland with Jet Greaves who might be someone to factor into the goaltending situation in Columbus with the way he's played.

Waddell has preached patience in getting to know his new club in the days since taking the job and finding out who the right people are to have installed. Considering he's already relieved the head coach three weeks in shows he's not afraid to make the desired change he feels is necessary.

That's what makes this next coaching hire feel different because of the one in charge of making such decisions.

Waddell is the change and fresh outside perspective everyone has craved, and now we get to see what this new Blue Jackets era will look like with a new president and general manager, and his head coach to lead the way.

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