It was an almost impossible situation to find oneself in, especially given the circumstances that led to it. The Columbus Blue Jackets have decided to fire head coach Pascal Vincent after only one season on the job, the 2023-24 campaign was nothing short of a miserable death march for the franchise that has only made the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times since their inception in 2000.

A dismal record of 27-43-12 combined with the struggles of star forward Johnny Gaudreau and porous goaltending and defense was enough for team management, which fired longtime general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen in February, to dismiss Vincent. He found himself thrust into the role of head coach following the resignation of Mike Babcock, who didn't step behind the bench for a single game for Columbus before stepping down in the wake of reports that he invaded players' privacy by asking to look through their phones.

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent (center) stands behind the bench during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent may have been thrust into an unfair position, but management has decided to go in a different direction. The good news for the Blue Jackets is that there will be several viable candidates for them to consider moving forward, and we have a list of the three top names that should be at the forefront.

Guy Boucher

An interesting option for the Blue Jackets to consider has just emerged, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and assistant coach Guy Boucher parted ways as part of their bench overhaul; he was not retained to be part of head coach Craig Berube's staff and was reportedly not happy with having been offered the role of head coach.

As you may remember, Boucher has served as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators, leading them both to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on separate occasions. The Lightning would fall to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in 2011, while the Senators fell in especially heartbreaking fashion to the eventual Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 thanks to a double-overtime goal from Chris Kunitz; the memory of which still makes Ottawa fans cringe.

During his days with Ottawa, he made his philosophy clear via – speed, via Silver Seven Sens:

“I’m obsessed by speed. Everything has to be done full-speed. We’ve got to gain fractions of seconds every month so that when we get to the playoffs, we’re ready. Because it’s only the teams that can play at a high pace, especially now, that’s what the NHL’s all about. You know, we hear ‘we like big guys’ and this and that. But the NHL is about speed. If you’ve got a big guy with speed, that’s outstanding, but you want speed first and foremost because now it’s about puck retrieval, puck transition and whether it’s breakout, transition, offensive zone, transitioning from offense to defense, it’s how quick you can make those transitions. For me, it’s speed, speed, speed, speed.”

His coaching record through 424 career NHL games is 191-187-46, and he could be enticed to work with a young squad like the Blue Jackets should he receive an offer.

Jay Woodcroft

Speaking of former head coaches who are up for grabs, one intriguing candidate is former Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, who was terminated after an abysmal 3-9-1 start to the 2023-24 season despite Edmonton having entered the fray as bonafide Stanley Cup contenders.

Woodcroft, who was promoted to head coach in 2022 after the firing of Dave Tippett, led the Oilers to the Western Conference Final that included postseason victories over the Kings and the provincial rival Calgary Flames before bowing out to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. That trend would continue last season, as Edmonton defeated Los Angeles in Round 1 only to fall to the eventual champion Vegas Golden Knights.

During his time behind the Oilers bench, Woodcroft racked up a record of  79-41-13, which was the 5th best mark by a head coach during that time. He began his NHL coaching career as a video coach with the Red Wings, and would also work for the San Jose Sharks as an assistant.

Dean Evason

Another candidate with head coaching experience at the NHL level, Evason was terminated by the Minnesota Wild earlier this year after several years of holding the position; he originally came to the franchise as an assistant in 2018.

He has extensive experience in the WHL, having served as head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, the Vancouver Giants, and the Calgary Hitmen. In addition, he spent six years as head coach of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals.

Following the termination of Bruce Boudreau by the Wild, Evason was named as his replacement on an interim basis. Eventually, the interim tag was removed and he remained in place until November of this past season after the Wild stumbled to a pedestrian record of 5–10–4.

Evason holds a career NHL coaching record of 147-77-27.