The Columbus Blue Jackets wasted little time finding the successor to John Tortorella. Last week, Columbus found their new boss between the benches when they hired Brad Larsen as their new head coach. Larsen was an assistant coach in Columbus since 2014.
While the move itself came at a good time, it did come with some criticisms. Here is a breakdown of the Brad Larsen hire in Columbus including three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly of the hire by Columbus.
The Good: Familiar Face and System
There is no denying that John Tortorella transformed the Columbus Blue Jackets into a consistent playoff team. With Larsen taking over, John Tortorella’s right-hand man will now have an opportunity to pick up where Tortorella left off. That could indicate that a similar system will be ran under Larsen compared to Tortorella.
One of the biggest critiques of Tortorella’s system was that it didn’t attract a lot of star players. Under Larsen, the Blue Jackets could run a very similar system that got them success but be able to now attract star players without Tortorella in charge. This is especially advantageous to the current core of players who won’t need to learn a completely new system this summer.
Larsen has had a lot of success as a head coach in the AHL. He spent two seasons as the head coach of the Springfield Falcons where he won the division title in both seasons. This earned him the job as an assistant coach for Columbus the past seven seasons.
The Bad: Not a Popular Choice Among Fans
Brad Larsen didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome on social media when he was announced as the next head coach for Columbus. Many Columbus fans weren’t exactly pleased with him getting the job. Heck, some of those fans were the same ones that were saying “Wrong Brad” when Columbus cut ties with Brad Shaw, another assistant coach.
The frustration the Columbus fans showed is somewhat justifiable. Larsen has no NHL experience. Other candidates for the position included Gerard Gallant and David Quinn who both have prior NHL coaching experience. That doesn’t mean that Larsen doesn’t deserve a shot at an NHL head coaching position, but Quinn or Gallant could have been better options.
Not having the fans on board could make Larsen’s job a bit tougher. If Larsen and the Blue Jackets struggle at the start of the upcoming season, the fans may turn on him quickly and that would be less than ideal for the franchise.
The Ugly: Terrible Power Plays Under Larsen
While being an assistant coach with Columbus for the last seven seasons, one of Larsen’s main responsibilities was with the Columbus power play units. Since the hiring of Larsen in 2014, Columbus’ power play units have been on a slow decline.
In the 2014-2015 season, Columbus had the fifth best power play in the regular season. That was Larsen’s first season. In the years since, Columbus’ power play has not exceeded 20%. Their power play has finished ranked in the bottom of the power play standings in all but one year. In that span, Columbus’ highest ranking in regular season power play percentage was 12th in the 2016-2017 season.
Larsen has been known as the main coach behind this struggling special teams’ unit. If this is any indication on how successful his tenure in Columbus will be as the head coach, it may be a long time before Columbus is in a position to compete again.
Cover Image Courtesy of theathletic.com