After relieving head coach Brad Larsen of his duties last month, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the position of searching for a new bench boss this summer. In whatever candidate they’re looking for, there are three important qualities that we think they need for this team to have a quick turn-around and build on success.
It seems like Larsen was here forever, but the reality is, he was only head coach for two seasons. Those two seasons didn’t go according to plan – or maybe they did, depending on how you look at it. The team needed to “reload” or “reset”, or whatever generic term for a rebuild you prefer to use is. Having a rookie head coach behind the bench helped them in that regard.
But this season, the on ice play really just wasn’t up to NHL standards. On paper, this team should have been a lot better. Sure, the injury situation tore the roster apart and left the team scrambling for replacement players. But the effort was not there on too many nights. Players talked about soft practices. You could see that the team wasn’t responding very well to the new defensive structure put in place. Worst of all, they played like a fragile group from the opening faceoff in game one.
This isn’t all on the coach, or the coaching staff. It’s not all on the players. It’s a shared blame amongst all of the above. Unfortunately for Lars, you can’t trade the entire roster away, so he fell on the proverbial sword. Now it’s up to GM Jarmo Kekalainen to find the right fit for this team, as they look to turn the corner and become competitive again.
This coaching hire is crucial to Jarmo’s future as GM of this team – he has to get it right, or he could be the next one to go. I think there are three things they need to pay close attention to, when interviewing candidates for this position. There are other factors at hand as well, but let’s talk about the issues at the forefront.
We hear this word all the time in sports, and it’s for good reason. Often, it’s the difference between a team sitting in the middle of the pack, or at the bottom of the pack. OR, sitting in the middle of the pack instead of the top of the pack. This season, accountability was all over the board, and I think it sent the wrong message.
It seems like players were trusted solely based on previous merit, or overall tenure in the league – rather than on-ice performance. Too many times, we saw young players left hanging out on the bench for minor mistakes; or worse, no obvious mistakes. While this was going on, we saw veteran players make glaring mistakes with no regard, and without repercussion.
Players need to be held to the same level of accountability for a team to have success. In fact, if anything, the veterans need to be held more accountable for things like an obvious turnover or missed defensive zone assignment. How can they help keep the younger guys accountable, if they’re out making the same mistakes? A new air of accountability from the new head coach, will help straighten out a lot of this team’s slow starts or off nights.