What the Blue Jackets should look for in a new coach

Exploring the criteria the club should focus on during the search

The search is underway for a new head coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Saturday, the team announced that it had fired Brad Larsen after two seasons. After a historically bad season, there are plenty of holes that need to be filled and issues to be addressed. Whoever the new coach ends up being is going to have a full plate. It's vital that this individual has the experience, the vision, and a plan. Let's take a look at a few of the essential requirements the Columbus front office should demand.

Fix the defense

The Jackets managed to finish the season 32nd in goals against at 5v5. It's easy to say the defense needs to be fixed, but a vision needs to be in place spelling out how that will happen. That vision involves understanding how the game of hockey at the NHL level has changed in recent seasons. The high-powered offenses are led by quick transitions and skillful breakouts. The Makars, Foxes, and Dahlins are leading the charge, not the slow and heavy defensemen of the past. The new coach needs to understand that and have a plan to combat the new style. We aren't only talking about the play of the defensemen either. The new coach will have to have a defensive plan for the forwards as well.

Unleash the offense

This season's team was a mess in all three zones when they had the puck. The defensemen couldn't clear the zone, the forwards looked lost in the neutral zone, and long possession and cycling of the puck in the offensive zone was a rare sight. Not only did they look bad as a team, but individual players often looked lost and unsure what to do with the puck.

The next coach should adapt the offense to the new modern approach of using speed and skill to quickly transition the puck up the ice. The players should know their assignments and be able to execute them without thinking. That means knowing how to best utilize your "less-skilled" players and limiting them to their specific roles. An immediate disqualifier should be the coach thinking it's ok to play the checking line for 15 minutes.

Be a jerk

I don't mean this literally. I do think it's important that a coach actively cares about their players on a personal level. That said, the coach needs to have high expectations for work ethic and accountability. Accountability doesn't mean holding your young players to a different standard than your veterans either. It means everyone gets held to the same standard. Not working hard in practice? Benched. Take two bad penalties in a game? Benched. Screw up another defensive assignment that leads to a goal against? Benched.

I'm not saying there should be no grace and players should constantly be looking over their shoulders. Players, the young ones especially, should be allowed to play through mistakes. I'm just saying that we've historically seen veterans and favored players make the same mistakes over and over again without penalty. That must end.

Have an open mind

Don't fix what's not broken, but also be willing to try new things on what is broken. If the new coach is an NHL retread, someone that's been in the league for a long time, this especially applies to them. As we've already discussed, this isn't the same league it was 5 or 10 years ago. That means the same systems and strategies that worked back then may not work now. The new coach needs to acknowledge that and be willing to try new things. That could come in a variety of ways like having ideas themselves, having a unique background, or hiring assistants with more modern approaches. Just don't hire a dinosaur that's intent on doing things the way they've always been done.

Along the same lines, it would be nice to have a coach that is willing to take advanced statistics into consideration. It was pretty obvious that Larsen didn't care about Corsi or expected goals. I realize that these stats don't always tell the entire story, but sometimes they make certain things very obvious. Look! These two defensemen are getting obliterated in shot attempts when on the ice together. Maybe that's not working.

What would you like to see in a new coach? Do you have any must-haves? Sound off in the comments!

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