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 Jarmo's first full season at the helm, the Blue Jackets had a then-franchise best record, with 43 wins and 93 points. They made the playoffs in their first season in the Eastern Conference, giving us the excitement of a six game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now, to be completely fair, we can't give full credit to Kekalainen for that season's success. A lot of that team was assembled under Scott Howson. But, it's a reflection of what can happen when there is a functional plan from the top down.

The promise of that 2013-14 season was followed up by a team that saw itself trending in the wrong direction. Injuries plagued the lineup for the next two years, prompting arguably Jarmo's biggest mark on the Blue Jackets: the hiring of head coach John Tortorella.

That era was easily the most successful run of hockey in Blue Jacket history. The team made the playoffs for four consecutive season under Torts, winning two series in that time (counting the playoff bubble play-in round).

Tortorella made his mark on the team's day-to-day existence, but it was Kekalainen's shrewd moves as manager that really set this team up for success. It started by swapping struggling youngster Ryan Johansen for Nashville's expendable youngster Seth Jones.

Then, Jarmo fleeced the Chicago Blackhawks for talented two-way winger Brandon Saad - only to fleece them again by sending him back for superstar scorer Artemi Panarin.

The competitive core was built around Jones, Panarin, Bobrovsky, and some of those leftover pieces from the Scott Howson era. This was all bolstered by two really strong top-ten picks in Zach Werenski and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

For awhile, in the late 2010s, it felt like this team was on the cusp of greater things. But it all blew up, and it's hard to fully lay the blame on Kekalainen...