Renovating with character in Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a major move last week in their attempt to revitalize a faltering organization. Vice President of hockey operations John Davidson hired Finnish Elite GM Jarmo Kekalainen. This move comes on the heels of the firing of former GM Scott Howson.

Davidson and Kekalainen have a massive task in front of both of them with trying to turn this organization around and on a winning track. Both have indicated that this will take a lot of hard work and indeed it will.

The good news for Columbus and the Blue Jackets organization is they will have three first round draft picks in the upcoming 2013 draft. They will have one of their own, one from the NY Rangers in the Rick Nash trade and one from the LA Kings from the Jeff Carter trade.

Jarmo Kekalainen has a back ground in scouting and has significant experience in drafting. He held a player personnel position with the Ottawa Senators where he had a hand in picking Marian Hossa, Marty Havlat, Jason Spezza and Ray Emery.

After Ottawa Kekalainen went to the St. Louis Blues organization where he and John Davidson both helped to reconstruct that dying organization and put them on a winning path. He was the assistant GM and director of amateur scouting.

In St. Louis again he had a hand in drafting what would constitute the majority of the Blues current roster like TJ Oshie, David Perron, David Backes, Alex Petrangelo and Patrick Berglund. We all know how well the Blues are now doing.

Kekalainen is coming from Finland where he was the GM for Jokerit in the FEL (Finnish Elite League). Jokerit is currently in first place in that league. He will become the first European GM in the NHL.

There is no question that Kekalainen was partially selected due to his extensive experience with scouting, player development and drafting. With the Blue Jackets having three first round picks it is imperative that this organization get this right as it will set the future course of the entire organization going forward.

The 2013 draft is filled with quality picks. Columbus’ own pick looks like it could possibly be the first overall as they are currently 30th in the NHL with a 4-10-2 record. If that holds true they will get a crack at either Defenseman Seth Jones, or forwards Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin. All of which have the potential to be franchise players.

The Blue Jackets have a lot of holes in their roster. Their leading point getter is a D man Fedor Tytutn with 1G, 9A for 10 points. Now you don’t need to be a genius to see this team has issues.

They are currently 28th in Goals per game 2.19; 29th on the power play; 28th in +/- ranking; 29th in takeaways; 28th in block shots and 22 in GAG 3.12.

The one good thing about being weak in a lot of areas is you can only improve but the improvement will be spurred by their draft picks and their prospects.

The Blue Jackets will also be getting back 2012 pick Dman Ryan Murray from injury and 2011 first round pick Boone Jenner who is currently in the OHL. If these prospects live up to their promise Columbus will be in good position going forward.

Scouting and player development is truly an art. You can not project intangibles like leadership, character and work ethics. The NHL is a rough league filled with skilled players that are highly competitive. Knowing how prospects will translate to this level is really difficult which is why Davidson picked someone with expertise in this area.

Blue Jacket fans take heart if the correct prospects are selected in the 2013 draft your team could be 2-3 years away from playoffs and a serious run at the cup. Is Jarmo Kekalainen the right man for the job? We will all find out.

His resume says he just could be. While I don’t know the man, it does say something about him that he was passed over by the same John Davidson in St. Louis for the GM job there. Davidson gave the position to Doug Armstong instead of Kekalainen.

Kekalainen had the fortitude to stick with it and now he will get that NHL GM spot only in Columbus. Everything works out for a reason. Maybe he had to spend more time in Europe with Jokerit, maybe St. Louis wasn’t right, maybe it’s time for Columbus.

Building a champion is a difficult task but it starts with hard work and character from the front office all the way down. If Kekalainen’s history demonstrates anything it shows he is not a quitter and has character something Columbus can sure use more of.