COLUMBUS CHANGES UP FRONT OFFICE

2024-02-16 · 2 min read · NHL/Hockey
Former Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen

Adam Cairns/The Columbus Dispatch via AP |

The Columbus Blue Jackets have announced long-time General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the club are parting ways. This comes midway through Kekalainen’s 11th full season on the job and with just over three weeks to go before the March 8 deadline. The 57-year-old Kekalainen was the third-longest tenured GM in the NHL. Columbus President of Hockey Operations John Davidson made the call saying about it, “This is one of the hardest days I have had in my career as Jarmo is a friend, someone I have a great deal of respect for, and someone who has done a lot of good things during his time here." Despite the fond words and respect for his ability Davidson wasn't to say, “our performance has not been good enough and it is time for a fresh perspective as we move forward”.
Kekalainen took over as GM during the 2012-13 season, replacing Scott Howson. In his over a decade long run as GM he has had a good amount of success but no deep playoff runs, the highlight being a first-round sweep of the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. The Blue Jackets won the qualification round to make the playoffs during the 2020 bubble playoffs, but have failed to make the playoffs with three consecutive losing seasons since. The Blue Jackets best season came in 2016-17, when the Blue Jackets finished third in the Metropolitan Division with a 50-24-8 record, but the team lost 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the postseason.
Kekalainen has come under fire in recent years for some management decisions, in particular his hiring of Mike Babcock in July, only for him to be let go just days before the 2023-24 season. Despite the big acquisition of Johnny Gaudreau in 2022 and the emergence of young talent such as Adam Fantilli and Kent Johnson, the Blue Jackets find themselves once again in the cellar, with hopes of landing a top pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. The Blue Jackets are likely to be sellers at the deadline, now Davidson and assistant GMs Josh Flynn and Basil McRae will be making those decisions, not Kekalainen. The 57-year-old Finnish native is the second GM fired this season after the Ottawa Senators parted ways with Pierre Dorion in November. The Blue Jackets are off until Saturday when they visit the San Jose Sharks.
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By: Chase Howard

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