Sort the list of Blue Jackets coaching candidates
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ offseason looks to be off to a good start with the recent rehiring of President John Davidson. Davidson was of course let go by the New York Rangers a few weeks ago, which stunned everyone in hockey, and while the official reasoning behind it may be murky, everyone in Columbus intended to meet.
JD is one of the central figures who helped lay the foundation brick by brick when he arrived at the club in 2012, and presided over the most successful game of Blue Jackets hockey to date.
With that meeting box checked, the next plan is to get the next head coach through the doors of the Nationwide Arena. General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen has said he hopes there will be a new head coach in town by the start of free agency which is due to start on July 28.
On the May 11 episode of The Cannon Cast we talked a bit about the potential training candidates the Blue Jackets might turn to. Names include former Stanley Cup-winner Bob Hartley – and current head coach of Avangard Omsk, also Yegor Chinakhov’s club in 2021 – former Blue Jackets player and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Manny Malholtra, former Blue Jackets player and former NHL head coach Kevin Dineen, Rikard Gronbörg, coach ZSC Lions in Switzerland and before. was coach of the Swedish national team and Jukka Jalonen, head coach of Jokerit in the KHL, and previously coach of the Finnish national team.
While I don’t know much about Gronbörg personally, I have heard his name mentioned in regards to the current opening of the Blue Jackets, and as previously mentioned Canon Cast episodes, that makes sense given the amount of European influence on the Blue Jackets roster. Additionally, Davidson caused a stir when he anointed Kekäläinen as the NHL’s first European GM, although the two have known each other from St. Louis and Kekäläinen already had front office experience in the NHL.
# 1 Marco Sturm, 42 (Germany)
Assistant Coach, LA Kings
More: 14 years in the NHL as a player, three years as an NHL assistant, head coach of the German national team for three years, including a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics.
Cons: was not the head coach of a club team pic.twitter.com/oe7jZNoUxf
– Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) May 26, 2021
# 3 Toni Söderholm, 43 (Finland)
Head Coach, German National Team
Plus: German curriculum is on the rise, went to high school in Canada, played college at UMass, longtime player in Finland, progressive thinker with an old school presence.
Cons: He’s only been a head coach for three years. pic.twitter.com/DoNf2wJC2B
– Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) May 26, 2021
# 5 Igor Larionov, 60 (Russia)
Head Coach, Russian Team Nat’l Jr
Plus: Living legend, progressive thinker and excellent communicator, has a wealth of experience in North America and internationally.
Cons: Limited bench management experience (WJC 2021 was his first as a head coach) pic.twitter.com/fZtasUS3qB
– Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) May 26, 2021
Like Grönborg, there could be a good connection between Kekäläinen and Jokerit depending on their Finnish roots, including players like Joonas Korpisalo, Patrik Laine and Mikko Lehtonen. Whose future is somehow hanging in the air.
In the Mailbag column of Portzline in Athletic (Blue Jackets Mailbag Part 1: John Davidson’s Impact on Seth Jones’ Contract, Plus Patrik Laine’s Status) Here’s what he added on both Grönborg and Jokerit:
This mailbag is a full service operation. To get your answer, I turned to the people who know them best: Finnish journalist Juha Hiitelä and Swedish journalist Uffe Bodin.
Here is Hiitelä on Jalonen: “Very analytical, very system oriented. Very good at creating the right systems for his team and creating the right atmosphere in the locker room. Not a great bench trainer. Not stubborn with his systems. Like this world junior team (2016) with Laine, Aho, Rantanen, etc. played a very different type of hockey than the men’s gold medalist teams in 2011 or 2019. Some main elements, but in many ways very different.
This is Bodin on Grönborg: “Gronborg is sort of the perfect mix between the North American type and the European type. He was educated in North America and spent a long time on your continent, which formed him as a leader. At the same time, you can also see the Swedish in him. On the one hand, he preaches a quintessentially Swedish puck possession game. When he coached the Swedish national team he was highly regarded because of the way he communicated with the players. I also think he’s a coach who strives to treat everyone the same no matter what line and D-pair you’re on. He always gave me the evil eye when I asked questions about the different lines, calling them “the fourth line” and so on. So there is a sense of “Swedish fairness” in the way he treats players. He has a temper that wins out over him at times, but he has calmed down since the days of coaching the Swedish junior national team.
We also heard that Gerrard Gallant has since interviewed for the vacant club position, and that former JD New York head coach David Quinn may be an interview candidate. Even assistant coach Brad Larson – yes Brad Larson – interviewed for the role.
Aaron Portzline’s article in Athletic (Blue Jackets Sunday Gathering: Who’s Following John Tortorella As Coach? Plus, a roster screening for 2021-2022) featured many of those names, and then some. Among those mentioned by Portzline were former head coaches Bruce Boudreau and Claude Julien, former Blue Jackets captain and longtime assistant coach Luke Richardson – previously on Julien’s staff – and more so head coach of the Arizona Coyotes recently fired Rick Tocchet, former Calgary Flames head coach. Geoff Lambert, assistants like Lane Lambert who had a long tenure with Barry Trotz, among others.
Says that, so far, Bruce Boudreau has not been contacted by the Blue Jackets.#CBJ
– Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) May 26, 2021
The list is plentiful and that’s a good thing. Certainly no reason to be shortlisted, although many candidates who are granted an interview are not necessarily sure for the post that will follow the interview.
As mentioned on The Cannon Cast, we don’t want a retread head trainer. For me, guys like Boudreau and Julien fall under this bucket. I’m not sure guys like Tocchet will do this for me. Of course, what do I know, and ultimately the right name is the one that makes the most of the current roster of the list. It’s up to Jarmo to decide, and he should definitely consider as many candidates as possible.
Gerrard Gallant is probably at the top of my wish list. Gallant already has ties to Columbus, but more importantly, he’s been successful as a coach in the league in recent years, including bringing an expanding club from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season in 2018. a little plateau during the 2019-2020 season before the club reaffirms its positioning to make the playoffs.
Gallant has also interviewed the New York Rangers and is expected to speak with the newly formed Seattle Kraken if he hasn’t already. I’m sure he can’t wait to get back behind a bench and we know he will soon. If Columbus wants to pay him off he thinks he’s a good choice, but that could depend on the property values for a particular coach at the time.
Another name familiar to Blue Jackets fans is former NHL player Manny Malholtra. It’s a name I specifically thought of that might be interesting for the team – another reunion – and the first crack at a head coach gig. He is well-known and is considered the next main candidate for the NHL’s head coach. This article from last year comes to mind.
But I’m also open to someone like Gronbörg or Jokerit. The situation may be a little unknown but aren’t they all? Boudreau and Julien have enjoyed varying degrees of success – from winning the Stanley Cup like Julien did with the 2011 Bruins, to Boudreau leading three different clubs to the playoffs, reaching the conference finals with the Ducks in 2014-15. But I don’t think they’re the right mix for this current iteration of the Blue Jackets.
Who do you think should be next to lead the Blue Jackets? Vote in our poll and make your point in the comments.