Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen made waves at the trade deadline last season when he decided to go all-in. This moved shocked many around the hockey world. With pending unrestricted free agents to be in Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin not willing to negotiate an extension, the thought was get something for them before losing them for nothing.
Instead, Kekalainen went big-game shopping and brought in Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. He and management believed they were close enough to being a true contender that they decided to take on the risk of losing everybody to go for it all.
A Quick Review
Their run got off to the best start possible. The Blue Jackets completed one of the most amazing and unbelievable accomplishments in playoff memory. They swept the Tampa Bay Lightning right out of the playoffs. Now many were praising the moves.
Then came the mighty Boston Bruins. In a hard-fought series that went six games, the Bruins proved to be too much and ended the Blue Jackets’ season.
So all of that for one playoff-round win and a total of 10 games. The playoff win was memorable as it gave the Blue Jackets’ their first ever series win. But in the end, was this all worth it?
Was It Worth It?
It’s a fair question to ask given that unless something dramatically changes, the Blue Jackets are set to lose Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel for nothing. Ouch.
This seems very bad losing an elite winger, a multiple Vezina-winning goalie, a number-one center and a scoring winger with nothing coming back.
Look, it’s easy to bash what the Blue Jackets did. It went against conventional wisdom. But here’s the thing that’s not getting enough play. You don’t think Kekalainen and management planned for this outcome? Trust me when I say they thought about every possible outcome and they still thought it best for the team to do this. You don’t get many changes to win. But more importantly, the Blue Jackets are actually in a good place even if you don’t think they are.
When in doubt, trust Jarmo Kekalainen. They had a plan in mind for every possible scenario from UFAs staying to everyone leaving. While it would be disappointing for everyone to leave, life goes on. There are ways to stay competitive. If there’s anyone out there that isn’t afraid to explore all avenues to improve while doing so in a way that could catch fans off guard, it’s Kekalainen.
Trust Jarmo Kekalainen
If there’s anyone in the Blue Jackets’ organization that loves Columbus and everything it’s about, it’s Kekalainen. He always has the best interest of the team in mind. He especially does now given the circumstances. If there’s anyone who knows the needs of his team, it’s Kekalainen. If there’s anyone who knows the day in and day out things of his team, it’s Kekalainen. If there’s going to be anyone unfazed by the circumstances, it’s Kekalainen. Get the point yet?
To those on the outside looking in, it’s easy to think the world is ending. But the Blue Jackets are not starting from square one. There’s a core. There’s good players, There’s elite players (hello Seth Jones.) There’s also plenty of cap space to work with.
In this time where it’s easy to worry about the future and where the team might be going, the time is now to trust Kekalainen. From the time he came to the Blue Jackets in 2012 until now, the team has enjoyed by far their most sustained success. There’s no reason to think he can’t continue that.
Kekalainen is on record as saying the team will be ok if everyone leaves. Why is he saying that? That’s because he knows what he has and he likes it. There’s improvements to be made but they have a plan in mind. He’s not just saying they’ll be ok for fun. He truly believes they will be ok. In fact, he believes they’ll be better than ok.
In Conclusion, Be Comforted
July 1 is coming quickly. We don’t know what all is going to happen. But what we do know is that Kekalainen is not worried. If he’s not worried, neither should you, even if it’s obvious to be worried. There’s a reason Kekalainen has enjoyed success in Columbus. It’s because he has an eye for talent. It’s because he has a good handle of team needs. It’s also because he’s not afraid to pull off something big if it presents itself.
So no matter what happens whether it’s nothing or somethng huge, Kekalainen is acting in the best interest of the Blue Jackets. Let that be your comfort in this time of doubt, worry and fear.
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.