The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to face lots of questions and uncertainty as their offseason starts to get into full swing. On Thursday, they brought back a familiar face that they hope will help steer them in the right direction.
The team hired John Davidson back to the role he originally had prior to leaving for the New York Rangers. He will be the President of Hockey Operations and Alternate Governor. He held that role with the Blue Jackets from 2012-2019.
Davidson’s contract is a five-year agreement that runs through the end of the 2025-26 season. As well, the Blue Jackets extended the contract of General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen for two more years that runs through the end of the 2024-25 season. Together, the duo of Davidson and Kekalainen helped lead the Blue Jackets out of darkness to enjoy their most successful run as a franchise. The team hopes they can recreate this magic.
On Thursday, Davidson, Kekalainen and Team President Mike Priest met with the media to talk about the big news. Two major themes came from this availability: Excitement and work.
Davidson Thrilled To Be Back
It was obvious that Davidson was thrilled to be back with the Blue Jackets. Despite having his phone ring a lot and getting other offers such as perhaps returning to the broadcast booth, he made it clear that Columbus is a place he loves and can’t wait to get started.
“It was an easy decision once I was free to go places,” Davidson said. I will say that the phone did ring and it rang quite a bit, actually. My choice and my wife and my family’s choice is right here in Columbus.”
“I can just tell you this. I’m really happy to be back in Columbus. We’re really looking forward to going north with our club.”
If there’s one thing you can’t question about Davidson, it’s his passion for the city of Columbus. Of all the things he could have done, returning here is exactly what he wanted. He knows what this city and hockey team are about. He also knows that one of his important jobs in his role is to get the word out about how great Columbus is. “It’s my job to get the word out that (Columbus) is a heck of a place to be,” Davidson said.
The excitement is tangible not only within management but also with players. Cam Atkinson, the longest-tenured Blue Jacket, was very excited to see Davidson back in the fold.
“I’m very excited that he’s back,” Atkinson said. “He’s done such great things for this organization and city. He helped us get the respect we deserve throughout the league. He will help us continue to steer this ship in the right direction and bring a Stanley Cup back to Columbus.”
The fans too were excited on social media. The news of Davidson’s return sent a jolt throughout the fan base that gave everyone some hope that the future is still looking bright. But while there’s excitement, there’s still a lot that has to play out. The work is just beginning. That takes us to our second big takeaway.
It’s Time to Get to Work
The Blue Jackets are in a difficult spot with many unanswered questions. Davidson and team is going to attack everything like they always have. That’s through hard work. It starts right away.
“We are going to go to work. We are going to go north. I just want to go north,” Davidson said. “The strong message from myself would be to our players and our staff. It doesn’t matter if it’s the training staff or the scouting staff, the development staff, whatever it is. Put your work boots on and get your hard hat on.”
The message from Davidson is a strong one in that it indicates a need to return to the Blue Jackets’ identity. With players leaving and other situations working out the way they did, things within their locker room have changed. Davidson wants to re-establish the standard.
The Blue Jackets over the years especially under Davidson and Kekalainen have earned respect throughout the league for the way they’ve handled their business. In 2020-21 however, perhaps some of that respect was lost. Bringing back Davidson will certainly help restore respect. But Priest was adamant that he didn’t see disrespect from his view. And Kekalainen vowed to win back any respect that might have been lost as they move forward. Adding Davidson back to the fold only solidifies what they hope to do. That’s do things the right way with anyone who wears the Blue Jackets’ sweater.
Davidson is thrilled to be back. The team is thrilled he’s back. Thursday was a good first step for the Blue Jackets on their road back to being in playoff contention. But it’s just step one of many. It won’t be easy and there will be many hurdles to overcome. But through hard work and dedication, management will do everything they can to ensure last season doesn’t repeat itself any time soon.
You can never have enough good voices in the room. As soon as Davidson was available, Priest and Kekalainen talked the day after to see if they could get him back. It worked. Davidson is back home in Columbus where he belongs. But now, the hard stuff begins.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.