Jarmo Kekalainen, tried to tell us. He never wavered in his assessment of the Columbus Blue Jackets roster he put together. While media outlets and fans not to mention hockey experts scoffed at the notion that the Blue Jackets were not reloading but about to enter a full-blown rebuild. Kekalainen insisted his team was indeed reloading. At 7-3, tying the best start in franchise history, Jarmo Kekalainen has to be grinning.
What is going on with the Columbus Blue Jackets? A massive roster overhaul chalked full of young players, some of which have barely any NHL experience while others are rookies sprinkled with some veterans have the Blue Jackets playing well.
I dare say not many people (myself included) saw this coming. Yet, here the Blue Jackets are and it appears they are not going away anytime soon. Is this a playoff team? It is still early in the season so that is difficult to forecast. That is not to say they are not. After the start they have had and as young players seem to be getting better with each game played, anything is possible.
Gritty, savvy, undeterred, pick one. Shoot pick all three. This is what I feel best describes the start of the 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets season. It has been very good to witness the job head coach Brad Larsen and his coaching staff has done. From game preparation to in-game adjustments Larsen is pushing all the right buttons.
Sure the 3 losses were clunkers, that said every team has clunker games during the course of the season including would be Stanley Cup champions. The bad games aside, the Blue Jackets have bounced back after the bad losses to win the next game played.
While a losing streak could turn up, so could a winning streak. How about the third periods for the Blue Jackets? In what use to be a bad timeframe the Blue Jackets are now finding a way to finish games. In fact, Columbus is making a thing out of third period comebacks and wins.
This is the team that Jarmo Kekalainen has put together. With it doubters have been silenced.
Thursday long time Columbus Blue Jacket assistant coach Brad Larsen was named head coach. Blue Jackets fans greeted the news with a mixture of mostly negativity with a bit of optimism. So what does this mean for the organization moving forward? That is a big question right now.
One factor that could have been in play for the Columbus Blue Jackets hiring, is that Brad Larsen knows the organization. He also knows the current roster. So that has some consistency and does not rock the boat to much as far as bringing in a coach from outside the organization.
Brad Larsen has been in Columbus for 11 years. During his time as an assistant coach the Blue Jackets record is 269-208 with 59 ties. So Larsen has been part of the winning in Columbus.
After the season concluded, and is was announced that former Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella would not be returning, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen met with players and asked what they would like in the next head coach. The players were united and said they wanted a “players coach.”
Larsen fits that bill. The term “players coach” does not mean pushover, not at all. It means a coach who is willing to listen to players and give them a chance to prove what they ask for, while being able to scrap that and change to what the head coach wants to do as the situation dictates.
While it is true the Blue Jackets power play struggled mightily under what many fans believe to be Larsen’s watch a deeper look tells a slightly different story. John Tortorella coached teams have a history of weak power plays.
While Brad Larsen may not have been the sexy name as far as head coaching candidates. Jarmo Kekalainen is banking on it being the right one for his hockey team. Time will tell. But for now Blue Jackets fans should back away from the ledge and see how this plays out.
Embed from Getty Images This is a brutally honest look at The Columbus Blue Jackets power play which has been awful, and it has been for quite awhile. It is time the coaching staff be held accountable for a unit that is a very important unit of every hockey team.
Back at the start of the 2016-17 season until New Years Eve (December 31, 2016), the Columbus Blue Jackets played 35 games. They posted a record of 26-5-4 and led the NHL with 56 points. The Blue Jackets also had a league leading 27.5% power play. The team scored 28 power play goals on 102 opportunities. 23.1% of the team goals scored over that 35 game stretch were scored with the man advantage. Those were the good days.
Starting on January 1, 2017, things fell apart. From that moment until this season the Columbus Blue Jackets have the worst power play in the NHL. The team has scored just 91 power play goals including Alex Wennberg’s goal on Monday night in 585 opportunities, good for a 15.6% conversion rate. Of the 640 goals scored during that time, just 14.2% have come with the man advantage. In other words, horrible.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, kept Brad Larsen in charge of the power play when he took over the Columbus hockey team four years ago. The fact that the Blue Jackets beat reporters do not ask pressing questions after the game is inexcusable.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have tried moving players around, shuffling personnel, everything that has been tried has been player related only. There are many times fans see players standing in their designated areas, unwilling to move around and change passing lanes in order to force a defensive reset.
For now the third season in a row, the Blue Jackets have the worst power play in the NHL. Any and all questions that have been asked, have been largely ignored, or played off entirely.
The answer is clear. It is time to remove Brad Larson and replace him with a fresh pan, a fresh set of eyes. The question is why has it not happened yet?