The Columbus Blue Jackets have conducted multiple interviews with both Gerard Gallant and Rick Tocchet as they look for John Tortorella’s replacement as head coach, but the job may actually be going to someone they are much more familiar with. Brad Larsen, an assistant with the Blue Jackets since 2014-15, before Tortorella even arrived in Columbus, is considered the front-runner for the job, according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. Larsen has also interviewed twice for the job.
Even before he joined the Blue Jackets bench, Larsen was part of the Columbus organization. He served as an assistant and then head coach of the Springfield Falcons almost immediately after his playing career ended. His final season on the ice was as captain of the Portland Pirates, playing alongside current NHL talents like Tyler Ennis, Paul Byron, and even current Blue Jacket Nathan Gerbe. Before he ended up wearing a “C” in Portland though, Larsen played more than 300 total games in the NHL, even winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 (though he did not suit up in the playoffs that season).
It is interesting to note that one of the other assistants on Tortorella’s staff, Brad Shaw, has a much longer track record in the NHL but parted ways and took a similar role with the Vancouver Canucks instead of interviewing for the Columbus job.
The Blue Jackets are facing a difficult offseason after it has become clear that Seth Jones will not sign an extension with the team at this point. GM Jarmo Kekalainen may have to consider trading the star defenseman this summer or risk losing him for nothing at the end of next season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Patrik Laine, the team’s big acquisition this year, is also in need of a new contract as a restricted free agent. Max Domi, last summer’s big name, has just one year left before he reaches UFA status as well, and will miss several months following recent surgery. Both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo will hit the open market in a year, and Zach Werenski also needs a new contract after 2021-22.
With all that in mind, combined with the fact that the Blue Jackets just finished last in the division, it very well could be a rebuild facing Kekalainen and company. If that’s the case, Larsen -- or whoever eventually accepts the head coaching job -- will have a difficult task ahead of them to turn things around.