The Columbus Blue Jackets are opting for a change of scenery behind the bench for next season.
The Blue Jackets announced on Saturday that they have fired head coach Brad Larsen, just days after the team settled for 31st overall in the NHL standings with a 25-48-9 record.
"This season has been extremely disappointing and the responsibility for that lies with all of us," said general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen. "These decisions were difficult and not made lightly given our respect for both Brad and Manny as coaches and people. Brad has been part of our organization for more than a decade, and we are extremely thankful for his hard work and many contributions - both on and off the ice - during that time. We wish nothing but the best for Brad and his family in the future."
The Columbus Blue Jackets relieve Brad Larsen of his duties as head coach. Club also announces it will not renew the contract of goaltending coach Manny Legace.https://t.co/57WU5QOzbM
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 15, 2023
In a statement, Columbus also mentioned that they will not be renewing the contract of goaltending coach Manny Legace, who has been with the organization since the 2012-13 season and with the Blue Jackets since 2018.
Larsen took over the head coaching role from John Tortorella during the 2021-22 season, after working as an assistant coach for seven seasons. The 45-year-old has only been behind the bench for the Blue Jackets organization, having been the AHL head coach before coming to the NHL.
During his reign as the bench boss, Larsen earned a 42-86-16 record and failed to make the playoffs in both seasons.
So, where does this leave the Blue Jackets? It might all depend on what happens on May 8. Columbus has a 13.5 percent chance to “earn” the right to draft one of the best prospects we have ever seen in Connor Bedard, the second-highest in the league, and that can alter just how quickly general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen wants to turn this ship around.
The team made the big splash in free agency last summer by signing Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year deal, have one of the top prospect pools in the sport already, and have solid young players like Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski that fit the timeline for a rebuilding team.
With Bedard in the mix, Kekäläinen might want to get a head coach that they could feasibly win with. Maybe even without the Canadian phenom (because Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and Matvei Michkov are still franchise-altering players themselves) Columbus will set their sights on being competitive and flip the switch from rebuilding to actually trying to win hockey games.