For all the times John Tortorella has been the centerpiece of a story about the woeful Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s interesting how little GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s name has come up.
Perhaps if Kekalainen were a better quote he’d get a little more blame tossed his way. After all, he’s the guy who put this roster together, and he’s the guy — along with president of hockey ops John Davidson — who hired Tortorella after firing Todd Richards.
Not that management has escaped completely unscathed in this ongoing disaster of a season. Here’s what Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch tweeted earlier today:
But mostly it’s been about Torts and Ryan Johansen, or Torts and Scott Hartnell, or just Torts being Torts.
Meanwhile, Kekalainen has reportedly been working the phones hard to make a trade. But let’s face it, it’s too late for the Jackets to salvage their season. They’re 13-22-3, dead last in the NHL. They’re not coming back from that.
In hindsight, expectations were just far too high for this group, even after the addition of Brandon Saad from Chicago — a trade that many seem to forget cost Columbus a pretty useful center in Artem Anisimov.
True, the Blue Jackets finished last season on a hot streak. They went 16-2-1 in their last 19 games. It’s not like there was zero reason for optimism.
But here’s the thing about that streak. Without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, it wouldn’t have happened. The Jackets won games in which they were outshot by margins of 47-20, 40-26, 40-27, 31-17, and 52-37. And while Bobrovsky was stopping almost everything, almost everything the Jackets were shooting seemed to be going in.
Per war-on-ice.com, during that 19-game stretch, the Jackets had the highest PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) in the NHL, at an unsustainable 104.4. Which is to say, despite all the wins, there were some serious red flags.
In September, Kekalainen rejected the widely held belief that his defense was the roster’s weakness.
“I don’t really care what people think of our defense, to be honest,” he told the Dispatch. “I respect everybody’s opinion, and they’re entitled to it, but I think it’s a good defense, and I think it has a chance to be a very good defense.”
Would he say the same thing today? Because while there’s still potential in the young group, it is clearly not a “good defense.”
Then there was the decision to hire Tortorella, the coaching equivalent of a defibrillator.
Well, it didn’t work in Vancouver, and it’s not working in Columbus.
Bottom line: Kekalainen has been the Jackets’ GM for almost three years. The way things are looking right now, and after all the money that’s been committed to building this roster, ownership has to be wondering if the right man got the job.
Related: Torts call Jackets ’embarrassing’ and ‘weak mentally’