The Columbus Blue Jackets have been forced to make another coaching change, this time promoting Steve McCarthy from the Cleveland Monsters to replace Sylvain Lefebvre. Lefebvre, who was set to join Brad Larsen’s staff this season, has decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and will not be able to coach under the current NHL protocols. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen released a statement on the move:
While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well. We feel fortunate to have an outstanding coach join our club in Steve McCarthy, who has played in this league, won championships as a player and been an important member of our hockey operations department as an assistant coach in Cleveland.
McCarthy, 40, has been with the Monsters for five seasons and has plenty of professional experience as a player. During a 302-game NHL career that included stops with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, and Atlanta Thrashers, he totaled 17 goals and 55 points. He would go on to win two league titles with the NLA’s ZSC Lions, and even joined the Lake Erie Monsters for their 2016 Calder Cup championship before retiring.
Lefebvre meanwhile was coming over from the San Diego Gulls, where he served as an assistant the last three seasons. The veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games has been a coach since 2007 when he was, coincidentally, hired by Lake Erie. He also had experience behind an NHL bench with the Colorado Avalanche, and had bounced around through a few other minor league stops.
He was only hired by the Blue Jackets in June, and Aaron Portzline of The Athletic tweets that the team has known this would be an issue since the league’s protocol was revealed in mid-August. In fact, Portzline has Kekalainen on record explaining that Lefevbre didn’t resign, but was fired after his decision because he couldn’t fulfil his duties. Mostly, this is a big blow for the Monsters, who will now have to search for McCarthy’s replacement, who was a huge part of the coaching staff and development team in the AHL.