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Coaching Search, Malatesta & More


We’re down to the last two games of the Men’s Hockey World Championships. With that, we can finally start the clock on the Columbus Blue Jackets and their huge decision at head coach.

Canada defeated Latvia 4-2 while Germany upset the United States in overtime 4-3. Canada and Germany will faceoff for the gold medal while Latvia and the United States will play for bronze. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has been at this tournament. But that hasn’t stopped the Blue Jackets from conducting interviews.

If this feels like it’s dragging on, it’s because it is. However the Blue Jackets are taking the correct approach in dragging this one out. There is justified pressure to not miss. The right coach could mean the difference between rising to prominence or dwelling in the league’s basement.

Some names have come out this week that have been connected to the Blue Jackets. I reported on Thursday morning that the team interviewed Andrew Brunette. In addition, Kirk Muller and Travis Green have reportedly been linked to the Blue Jackets.

Andrew Brunette was interviewed this week by the Blue Jackets. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Now is a good time to play a game of “What Do We Know?” We know the Blue Jackets have interviewed several candidates. We know they haven’t announced a hire yet. We know most of the names have one thing in common. That’s varying levels of experience as a head coach.

But here’s what we don’t know still. We don’t know who’s ahead of the pack. Suddenly, this is an interesting development. The Blue Jackets have keep it quiet around their coaching search.

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There’s one thing that remains true about this coaching search no matter how quiet the Blue Jackets keep it. The fact remains that it is their job to find the best available coach to meet the current needs of the team. That suggests one of a couple of things.

  • They have others they want to interview.
  • No one has blown them away yet.
  • They want to be 100% sure of who to hire.

There is word that some teams might even conduct interviews at the NHL Combine in Buffalo although the Blue Jackets haven’t been linked to that as far as I know. That means if the Blue Jackets have someone in mind, they don’t necessarily have to rush this. There are plenty of good candidates out there in which some will still be available by the time the Combine comes.

I do expect we will start to hear about a decision this week. But if not, it will prove to be significant. Patrick Roy? Joel Quenneville? The longer this goes, the more questions that will be raised especially given their original timeline was before Kekalainen left for the World Championships.

Are they really looking at Mike Babcock? What about Sergei Fedorov? Is Peter Laviolette still in this? And is Pascal Vincent still in the running? At this time we have more questions than answers. The one thing that cannot be questioned is that the Blue Jackets cast a wide net into this search. Good on them to realize the gravity of this hire.

Malatesta Shines Early at Memorial Cup

Coming off an MVP performance in the QMJHL Playoffs, Blue Jackets’ prospect James Malatesta used Game 1 at the Memorial Cup to show why he’s a fast riser.

Malatesta scored a hat trick in Quebec’s 8-3 win over Kamloops which included the Remparts’ first two goals of the game. He finished a great play from Justin Robidas on the first goal while making a beautiful tip on the second goal. His efforts unsurprisingly made him the Player of the Game.

Taken in the fifth round of the 2021 Draft by the Blue Jackets, Malatesta has shown he should have been selected much higher than he was. He’s scored 28 and 37 goals in his two seasons after being drafted. He won the Guy LaFleur Trophy for QMJHL Playoff MVP with his 14 goals and 20 points in 18 games.

Malatesta’s rise certainly puts him in the plans of the Blue Jackets upcoming as evidenced by his signing to an entry-level contract. He is expected to make his AHL debut next season with the Monsters.

While the Seattle Thunderbirds entered the Memorial Cup as the favorites, don’t sleep on the Remparts making noise. Malatesta’s rise has them thinking Championship and has the Blue Jackets excited about what he can eventually do in the pros.

A Personal Message About Will Smith

If the World Championships have proven anything, it’s that there was a good reason why both Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson were thought of highly for this upcoming draft. They each showed in different ways why the hype is real.

Fantilli had a quiet tournament until Saturday when he scored a remarkable game-winning goal to help Team Canada advance to the Gold Medal game. The play illustrated perfectly what he’s capable of in the NHL.

Carlsson put up numbers that made it one of the best performances ever for someone his age against men. When you accomplish something that Jaromir Jagr accomplished, people take notice.

Most of the scouting industry believe Fantilli and Carlsson should go 2-3 in some order in Nashville. And then there’s Will Smith. There has been a lot said on social media about if the Blue Jackets take Smith and not one of Fantilli or Carlsson. The fact that Smith is even in this conversation says everything you need to know about what is thought of him.

Imagine thinking putting up more points than Auston Matthews in the U.S. Program is somehow a detriment. While the outrage in this case would be directed at the Blue Jackets for taking Smith over Fantilli or Carlsson, is it really justified? Do we already know who’s going to have the better NHL career?

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The Blue Jackets have the task of picking the best available player with the third-overall pick. While I would take whoever is left of Fantilli or Carlsson in that spot, the Blue Jackets could take Smith. You know what? If they do, that’s perfectly acceptable. He’s a high-scoring center who could have the highest offensive ceiling of the three. There are folks who do believe this.

The point comes down to one thing here. Smith has worked his entire career for this moment and could in theory be selected third overall. If he is selected third by the Blue Jackets, most fans are going to go into a meltdown full of outrage rather than celebrate one of the greatest point producers in U.S Program history is joining their team.

No matter which of the three the Blue Jackets land, let’s hope their prospect is celebrated rather than jeered when the pick is announced.

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