Jarmo Kekalainen's Columbus Blue Jacket Legacy Stretches Beyond just on-ice Results

The Columbus Blue Jackets ended an era on Thursday by firing the third longest tenured GM in the NHL, Jarmo Kekalainen. Whether you loved him or hated him, there's no denying that he left his mark on hockey in Central Ohio.
Jul 1, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen speaks after
Jul 1, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen speaks after / The Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK
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In my opinion, the best way to grade on Jarmo's time in Columbus, is maybe to look at the roster he inherited, and compare it with what he leaves behind. The Blue Jackets hired Kekalainen on February 13th, 2013.

That NHL season was shortened to 48 games due to lockout. A late season push by the plucky Jackets saw them miss out on the playoffs only on the final day of the regular season.

But if you look at the team Jarmo was left with, man, it was bleak. Their leading scorer that season was Vinny Prospal (30 points), with Mark Letestu (13) leading the team in goals.

Sure, there were some nice pieces here. Guys like Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Jack Johnson, and budding superstar Sergei Bobrovsky; all became key parts of this franchise over the next half-dozen seasons.

As far as prospects, however: the cupboards were pretty thin. There were a few, but not one that really stood out as an emerging superstar. Newly hired Team President John Davidson was quick to point out that Jarmo's hiring was going to thrust this team into a "draft and develop" success plan.

But, both JD and Jarmo knew that the clock was ticking for this franchise. The city of Columbus was starved for NHL success. When Bobrovsky went on a tear the next season, one of Kekalainen's first moves was to swing for the fences and acquire Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers.

If you were around then, you'll know what I mean when I say it was exciting times. To that point in our history, we had never seen that kind of trade deadline acquisition. While it didn't work out (Jarmo lost both ends of the Gaborik trade trees), it was a sign of things to come.

The result was that Jarmo became an active GM during his time in Columbus. Not all of his deals were winners, but at least he knew when to push some buttons. This year's roster reflects that, and it's part of the reason we're all so disappointed. Let's take a look...