After firing head coach Brad Larsen last month, the Columbus Blue Jackets have embarked on an intensive search for a new head coach and goaltending coach, also needing to replace Manny Legace, whose contract was not renewed by the team. Things seem to be heating up in said search, as general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said today the interview process will continue throughout the week, with no immediate assumption of finalizing hires before Kekalainen’s departure for the IIHF Men’s World Championship on Sunday. His quote comes after reporting last weekend indicated Kekalainen wanted to have the hire finalized before then.
The Blue Jackets have a meticulous approach in mind, though, and Kekalainen told reporters today the hiring decisions might be delayed until after his return following the conclusion of the medal round on May 28. Yesterday, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun disclosed reporting on who those hires might be.
Per LeBrun, at least three individuals have already been interviewed for the vacant coaching positions, including current associate coach Pascal Vincent, whom Kekalainen said the team was considering last week. The others are the experienced but extremely controversial Mike Babcock, who has previously coached the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Peter Laviolette, whose resume spanning five different clubs needs no introduction, including his most recent stint with the Washington Capitals, has also been interviewed, said LeBrun.
After an internal hire that didn’t pan out as they hoped with Larsen, it makes sense the Blue Jackets are swinging toward the opposite end of the spectrum in this round of coaching searches while still doing their due diligence on people familiar with the organization.
If Babcock is hired, the choice would immediately receive a fair amount of scrutiny from fans and media alike. Since he was fired by the Maple Leafs in late 2019, multiple revelations surrounding current and former NHL players alike have come forward about Babcock creating toxic playing environments, including Red Wings legends Chris Chelios and Johan Franzén and current Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner.
Laviolette, on the other hand, maintains a solid reputation league-wide after decades’ worth of service and also boasts multiple Stanley Cup Final appearances on his résumé (2006, 2010, 2017).