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Cannon Blasts: Some familiar faces take on new roles

That and more of this week’s links

Edmonton Oilers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Since our last Cannon Blasts, the Blue Jackets made their second big move of the offseason (the first being the return of John Davidson as president of hockey operations) by promoting assistant coach Brad Larsen to be their next head coach. I had thoughts about that.

Last week, they announced a series of hires and promotions that fit the same pattern: putting familiar faces into new roles within the organization. From the team’s announcement:

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager and Associate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen announced several changes to the club’s hockey operations department today. Rick Nash has been promoted to director of player development and Josef Boumedienne has been promoted to director of pro scouting, while former Blue Jackets Derek Dorsett and Mark Letestu have been named development coaches. In addition, Brad Thiessen has replaced Jim Corsi as goaltending development coach and Nelson Ayotte has retired after five seasons with the club, including the past four as director of high performance.

Being able to promote people internally is something that good organizations do to cope with the usual turnover that happens as other employees retire or get promotions elsewhere. But are the Blue Jackets a good organization? They are coming off of a bad season, though some of the on-ice struggles may have been short-term flukes given the COVID protocols and the shortened season. More concerning, however, is the growing pattern of the team being unable to retain elite talent on long-term contracts. If you keep all the same people in charge, can they accurately assess the source of the problem, and effectively enact a solution? It’s possible but I still have concerns.

That being said, each of these hires on its own makes a lot of sense. Boumedienne has been the chief European scout for five years, but is now relocating to Columbus full-time. He also briefly served as interim coach of a Swedish pro team this spring. Perhaps his distance from the day-to-day operations will allow him to have a fresh perspective. One also wonders what role he will have in keeping the increasing number of European players on the team happy.

Rick Nash finally gets a real title after being the Dwight Schrute-esque “assistant to the general manager” for two years. In that job, he got to observe all facets of the organization to find the best fit for his post-playing career. As a former player with a distinguished career, and who is still relatively young (he’s two weeks younger than me so please don’t say he’s old), he should be able to relate well to the prospects as he shepherds their development from their draft day to the Columbus lineup. He’s one of the many players to want out of Columbus, but he’s also one that signed a long-term contract here. Can he figure out how to keep players happy here?

Derek Dorsett and Mark Letestu are former Jackets but ones with distance from the current locker room. Like Nash, their work will be with players who are not yet full-time Blue Jackets. Being a development coach is a common entry-level position for a former player. I think it may suit these two players well because neither was a star. Each had to work really hard to become a regular, so they are great role models for future prospects. If Letestu can teach the current centers how to win face-offs, that alone makes his hire justified.

Finally, let’s give credit to Brad Thiessen for a long career as a journeyman goaltender. Most recently, he pulled double duty, having to play on a regular basis for Cleveland while also serving as the Monsters’ goaltending coach.

The next bit of news to come is who will serve as the assistant coaches on Larsen’s bench. My hope is that we see at least one of those be a new face: one who is new to Columbus, and new to working with Larsen.

The week that was

A number of former Blue Jackets are still in the postseason. Here’s a rundown of what they’ve done so far.

Josh Anderson provided a late goal against Marc-Andre Fleury that felt familiar to the CBJ faithful:

Speaking of playoffs, I have to disagree with the Artillery. This is NOT fun.

If you’re not watching the playoffs, what else are you doing with your free time this summer? There’s a lot of good vacation spot recommendations in this thread.

The player reviews continued:

Kevin Stenlund (recently re-signed to a one year deal!)
Mikhail Grigorenko (on his way back to the KHL)
Joonas Korpisalo
Dean Kukan
Boone Jenner
Zach Werenski

Ohio Sports Update

The Columbus Crew played their final game at Historic Crew Stadium and it ended with an appropriate score: 2-0.

With the opening of a new soccer stadium in the Arena District next month, there is a proposal on the table to make the sidewalks around all three venues a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area. If you’ve ever visited places that allow drinking outside of venues that sell it, you know how great this can be. The plaza outside of Nationwide can be even more of a party now before big games like the home opener or playoffs.

Play me out

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Be sure to check Ryan Nanni’s annual thread collecting the most Dad things that people have done over the last year: