‘Just thrilled to be part of it’: Flames hire Brad Larsen as assistant coach

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Brad Larsen is excited to be back on a big-league bench.

He didn’t work in the NHL this past winter, a one-season hiatus that ended Tuesday when he was hired as an assistant coach by the Calgary Flames, but it’s not like he stayed away from the rink completely.

“I’ll say this — I didn’t take a year off coaching. I did coach last year,” Larsen clarified during an interview on Flames Talk on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “I coached the 12U Mavericks travel team (in Ohio). I was an assistant coach, with my son, and it was a blast. I mean, trying to come up with drills for 11- and 12-year-olds, that was unique. I had only coached pro hockey and been in pro hockey for so long, so I had to figure out what I could do.

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“But that was an opportunity I’ll always cherish. We lost in the championship, unfortunately, so it was a rough ending. But it was a really fun year.”

Larsen’s experience — especially all the stuff before that memory-maker with the 12U Mavericks — will be a major asset as he now joins Ryan Huska’s coaching staff at the Saddledome.

His most recent NHL post was a two-season stint as skipper in Columbus. He was in the Blue Jackets’ organization for a grand total of 13 years.

Before that, Larsen earned his paycheques as a hard-working winger. He logged 294 appearances at the top level, splitting his time between the Colorado Avalanche and Atlanta Thrashers.

Larsen, who hails originally from Nakusp, B.C., has been in pro hockey for 26 years already … and he turns 47 later this month.

‘Wealth of knowledge’

“Brad is a great addition to our coaching staff, adding valuable recent experience as an NHL head coach as well as a longtime player,” said Flames general manager Craig Conroy in Tuesday’s announcement. “He is a good communicator with a tremendous work ethic and provides a wealth of knowledge having worked in every situation as a coach over the course of his career. We look forward to Brad’s contributions to our team’s success.”

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After being dismissed as the Blue Jackets’ bench boss in April 2023, Larsen decided for family reasons that he’d pass on opportunities to immediately latch on with a new employer.

Now, as he readies for the move to Calgary, bringing his wife, two kids and three rescue horses with him, he figures the break will prove to be big-time beneficial. As he put it: “Having that year off, it really did refresh me.”

“Being with one organization for a long time, you kind of go through the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs,” Larsen said, reflecting on his lengthy run with the Blue Jackets, where he was an assistant to Todd Richards and then John Tortorella before being handed the reins as head coach. “I think my strengths are going to be just the experiences of going through a lot of things, some good and some not so good. I think that’s really when you learn. It’s really from the lows and the tougher moments in your career.

“And I think what a year off can do, it’s just taking a step back and reflecting on where you maybe went wrong. I think some of the things that I can bring … I have a huge passion to teach. I love being part of a group. I’m here to help the staff any way I can.

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“Every day, I was taught a long time ago, you have an opportunity to kind of set the mood in the room as a coach. Talking to Husk, he’s excited. He’s energized. I know the staff is. I’m just really looking forward to taking on the challenge.

“I’m just thrilled to be part of it.”

Larsen replaces Marc Savard, who worked primarily with the forwards and power-play before the Flames announced a mutual parting of ways last month.

It’s unclear if Larsen will inherit those same duties at the Saddledome, and he wasn’t going to spill the beans.

“I’m up for whatever,” he said.

The Flames’ coaching staff for the 2024-25 campaign is now finalized. Huska will be flanked by Larsen and fellow assistants Dan Lambert and Cail MacLean, plus goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera, video coach Jamie Pringle and video coordinator Andrew Doty.

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