The Columbus Blue Jackets were one of the NHL’s most disappointing teams last season, and it cost head coach Todd Richards his job.
But according to the Columbus Dispatch, the club’s management group has received a vote of confidence from ownership, in the form of contract extensions.
President of hockey operations John Davidson, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and assistant general manager Bill Zito all signed two-year extensions, The Dispatch has learned, putting them under contract with the Blue Jackets through the 2018-19 season.
“This (extension) gives us an opportunity to keep doing what we’ve been trying to build,” Kekalainen said. “It’s a process that will take its time, but we’re on our way.”
The Jackets did not have a particularly noteworthy summer, save for the decision to draft Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi. Sam Gagner was signed in free agency, but he came cheap for a reason. There are high hopes for 2015 first-rounder Zach Werenski, but he still has to make the team.
Which is to say, aside from a few minor changes, it’s mostly the same group that finished last season.
“I certainly feel for the fans who have been here from Day 1,” Davidson told the Dispatch. “But we haven’t (been here from Day 1). Look at Los Angeles and Chicago. Look at Florida, as an up-and-coming team. Pittsburgh’s done it more than once. You have to go through this to get where you want to go. We’re still a work in progress.”
And that will be the key next season for Davidson, Kekalainen, Zito and head coach John Tortorella — there has to be progress, and a decent amount of it. Otherwise, Jackets fans will have every right to question whether their team is in capable hands.