Hours after their season-ending loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired head coach Brad Larsen. They also announced that they are not renewing the contract of goaltending coach Manny Legace.
Larson was named the eighth coach in franchise history on June 10, 2021. Under his watch, Columbus compiled a 62-86-16 record. The Blue Jackets were a surprising 37-38-7 during Larsen’s first season but finished the 2022-23 season with the fewest points (59) in the Eastern Conference and were tied with the second-fewest points in the entire NHL.
Injuries decimated the 2022-23 Blue Jackets, who were expected to compete for a playoff spot after acquiring longtime Calgary Flame left winger Johnny Gaudreau this past offseason. Gaudreau was one of the few Blue Jackets regulars who stayed healthy, however, as right wingers Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek and defenseman Zach Werenski were among Columbus’ key players that missed significant time with injuries.
Goaltending was also an ongoing issue for the Blue Jackets, as they finished 31st of 32 teams in the NHL in goals allowed.
“This season has been extremely disappointing and the responsibility for that lies with all of us,” Jarmo Kekalainen said on Saturday, via a team insider. “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.”
A former NHL player, Larsen began his time with the Blue Jackets’ organization in 2010 as the assistant coach at AHL Springfield. He then spent seven seasons as Columbus’ assistant coach under head coaches Todd Richards and John Tortorella. During that span, the Blue Jackets reached new heights that included three four consecutive playoff appearances from 2017-20. The 2019 Blue Jackets won the franchise’s first-ever playoff series after brooming the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
A former goaltender who won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, Legace broke into coaching in 2012. He spent five seasons as the Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach after having the same role with the team’s minor league affiliates, the Cleveland Monsters.
Kekalainen said that the team will take a “deep look at all the best candidates” when it comes to finding the Blue Jackets’ next head coach.
“I don’t think we’re going to rush into anything,” he said. “The sooner the better, obviously, but I think we’re going to do thorough search.”