Kekalainen’s most recent job was as the general manager for Jokerit of the Finnish league, but he also has extensive experience in the NHL. He was the Ottawa Senators’ player personnel director in the late 90s and early 21st century. During his tenure, the Senators drafted Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, and Jason Spezza.
He was later the director of amateur scouting in St. Louis when the Blues were drafting many vital pieces of their franchise, including Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes. During his tenure with St. Louis, Kekalainen worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets current president of hockey operations, John Davidson.
“Jarmo is a person with a world of experience,” Davidson said in Wednesday’s press conference. “He’s very intelligent about the world of hockey. He’s very excited.”
Kekalainen will take over a team with some great prospects, but a history of disappointment. The Blue Jackets are playing in their 12th NHL season and they have never won a playoff game. They don’t appear close to changing that either after trading the former face of their franchise, Rick Nash, over the summer.
That being said, the Blue Jackets have already accumulated three first-round picks for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, so Kekalainen will have an opportunity to breathe new life into the team’s rebuilding efforts.
“The Blue Jackets will be built through drafting and player development,” Davidson said. “It’s all part and parcel of how it’ll work going forward.”
He’s also the first European general manager, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted.