New names have joined the list of candidates in the Blue Jackets’ search for a head coach.
According to “insider” reports this week from Sportsnet, The New York Post and The Athletic, the Jackets have spoken with former Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green, New Jersey Devils assistant Andrew Brunette, Calgary Flames associate coach Kirk Muller and former NHL star forward Sergei Fedorov — who played three seasons with the Blue Jackets near the end of his career and is now coaching CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.
All three names are intriguing. They also join a field of candidates who’ve interviewed for the job that includes Mike Babcock, Peter Laviolette and Blue Jackets associate coach Pascal Vincent.
Joel Quenneville, a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, could enter the discussion depending on a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman following the Stanley Cup Final series in June. Quenneville must be reinstated from a suspension for his role in the Blackhawks’ 2010 coverup of sexual assault allegations made by forward Kyle Beach against former video coach Brad Aldrich.
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is still conducting interviews while in Tampere, Finland scouting the men's world championship tournament. He's expected to return May 29 after the conclusion of the medal rounds.
Here’s a rundown on the latest coaches mentioned in the Blue Jackets’ ongoing search:
Andrew Brunette, New Jersey Devils assistant
Brunette, 49, just completed his first season as associate head coach with the New Jersey Devils after coaching the Florida Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22 as the interim who took over for Quenneville.
After an NHL career that spanned 1,110 games with six teams, Brunette got his start on the executive side as special assistant to the general manager of the Minnesota Wild from 2012-14. Staying with the Wild, he spent two years as an assistant coach (2014-16), another year as special assistant to the GM (2016-17), one as assistant GM (2017-18) and one as director of player personnel (2018-19) before leaving for the Panthers as an assistant coach (2019-20).
Brunette’s lone experience as a head coach was his final season in Florida, where he went 51-18-6 in 75 games as Quenneville’s temporary replacement. Brunette, who interviewed with the Blue Jackets earlier this week, wasn’t retained by Panthers GM Bill Zito after the team lost in the second round of the playoffs.
Zito hired veteran Paul Maurice, who has guided the Panthers to playoff upsets of the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes to qualify for this year's Cup Final. Brunette and the Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first round to eliminate the New York Rangers and lost to the Hurricanes in the second round.
Like Babcock and Quenneville, Brunette carries some bad publicity baggage stemming from an arrest for drunken operation of a golf cart during a visit to Florida.
Kirk Muller, Calgary Flames associate coach
Muller’s name was connected to Columbus by Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman, who also listed Brunette, Green, Babcock and Laviolette.
Muller, 57, has been in the NHL for almost all of his adult life, starting as a rookie forward with the New Jersey Devils at age 18 in 1984-85. After a 19-year playing career that included 1,349 games for six teams, Muller took one year off after retiring and then started his coaching career at Queen’s University in 2005-06.
He became an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens the next season and stayed in that role for five years before getting his first head coaching stint in 2011-12 with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Muller didn’t even get through a full season before he was promoted to head coach of the Hurricanes that same season.
He spent three seasons running the Carolina bench, going 80-80-27, before he was replaced. Muller shifted back to an assistant or associate coach role the past nine years with the St. Louis Blues, Canadiens and Flames.
Travis Green, former Vancouver Canucks head coach
Green, 52, was connected to the Blue Jackets this week by both Sportsnet and The Athletic.
After a five-year run as the Canucks’ head coach ended last season, he spent this year as a senior advisor for Switzerland’s national team and ran the bench for Canada in the Spengler Cup tournament.
His coaching career began in 2010-11 as an assistant for the junior level Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, where he spent three years and held the titles of assistant coach, head coach, general manager and assistant GM. Green moved up to become head coach of the AHL’s Utica Comets from 2013-17 before taking over the Canucks’ bench in 2017-18.
Vancouver only posted one winning season in Green’s tenure and it led to his lone playoff appearance.
Sergei Fedorov, CSKA Moscow head coach
Fedorov, 53, is one of the most interesting options for the Columbus bench. The former NHL superstar forward for the Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals has pulled off a rare transition since retiring as a player.
He’s become an excellent coach, which often proves to be a challenge for great players in any sport. Fedorov spent five years as CSKA’s general manager, four as a senior advisor and took the coaching reins for the first time in 2021. That led to the first of back-to-back Gagarin Cup championships in the Kontinental Hockey League, which apparently caught the Blue Jackets’ attention.
Fedorov also coach the Olympic Athletes of Russia to a silver medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited a league source in report that said Fedorov was scheduled to speak with the Blue Jackets this week about their coaching vacancy. Brooks also said the Jackets would likely hire Babcock if Fedorov didn’t get the job.
Along with his winning pedigree, Fedorov’s nationality is intriguing when considering him for the Jackets’ coaching role. Columbus is likely to have four Russians on its roster, including goalie Daniil Tarasov plus forwards Kirill Marchenko, Yegor Chinakhov and rookie Dmitry Voronkov.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Four more names to know in Blue Jackets' coaching search