The Columbus Blue Jackets have fired coach Brad Larsen after two seasons without a playoff appearance.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced the move on Saturday after the team finished last in the Eastern Conference and 31st out of 32 NHL teams.
While the Blue Jackets were ravaged by injuries throughout the season after beginning it with expectations to contend, the decision was made nevertheless to move on from Larsen, who had a contract through next season.
Goaltending coach Manny Legace also will not be back after five seasons on the job.
“This season has been extremely disappointing and the responsibility for that lies with all of us,” Kekalainen said in a statement. “These decisions were difficult and not made lightly given our respect for both Brad and Manny as coaches and people. Brad has been part of our organization for more than a decade, and we are extremely thankful for his hard work and many contributions — both on and off the ice — during that time.”
Columbus lost 102 of 164 games since Larsen succeeded John Tortorella as coach.
Larsen, 45, was a Blue Jackets assistant for seven years under Tortorella and predecessor Brad Richards before getting promoted.
When Blue Jackets President John Davidson and Kekalainen chose Larsen in 2021 over more experienced coaches, including Gerard Gallant and Rick Tocchet, they cited his communication skills and thought his institutional knowledge of the organization made him the best fit.
Kekalainen said Larsen had earned the promotion and said he was “going to be a fresh, new voice.”
Larsen at the time said some patience would be needed.
“I’m going to learn more now,” he said at his introductory news conference. “I’m going to make mistakes — I promise you — but that’s part of the process.”
That process in Columbus will continue without Larsen.
It may include Connor Bedard, the prospective No. 1 pick in the draft who is considered the most talented generational player since Connor McDavid entered the league in 2015.
The Blue Jackets have the second-highest chance, 13.5-percent, of landing Bedard.
Winning the lottery could change the course of the franchise that came into existence in 2000, and has not gotten past the second round of the playoffs.
Kekalainen could wait until after the lottery is drawn on May 8 to hire a coach based on the outcome.