The NHL’s most patriotic (American) brand has gone European. The Columbus Blue Jackets, named for Ohio’s rich Civil War history, recently announced the hiring of Finish general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen. Kekäläinen didn’t waste any time bidding farewell to Jokerit, the Finish Elite squad he recently turned around on and off the ice, to become the league’s first ever European-born GM. Considering the Jackets’ wealth of youth and draft picks it was an easy decision and a move Jokerit had been anticipating. The opportunity is great and the challenge daunting, but, if successful, Jarmo can tack on another awe-inspiring NHL first to his résumé: making the Blue Jackets to relevant.
Luck has rarely been on the their side since the Blue Jackets inception in 2000/01. With no playoffs wins and countless draft busts to their credit, it’s shocking that Mr. Kekäläinen is only the third GM in the troubled team’s history. Unlike his predecessors, Jarmo won’t enjoy a long honeymoon. Not under team president John Davidson’s watch. How Kekäläinen manages the team in his first next six months will determine the fate of the franchise for a decade or more.