Thanks for tuning in for JARMO WEEK! To mark the 10 year anniversary of Jarmo Kekalainen becoming general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, we have spent the last four days recapping some highs and lows from his decade in charge:
Best/Worst Draft Picks
Comparing the accomplishments with other long-tenured GMs around the league
Now is the moment of truth: after reviewing this information, we must ask the question, is Jarmo the right person to lead this team going forward? If not, when do you make a change? Here’s what The Cannon staff have to say about, and below that is a poll for you to vote for yourself. Share your own thoughts in the comments!
I was a Jarmo apologist up until we found out John Tortorella wasn’t allowed to walk away when he wanted to. Since that decision, this team has been in a downward spiral. It’s true that the current GM is responsible for the best decade of hockey in the history of the franchise, but the low bar Jarmo inherited was very low. During his ten year tenure, we have only seen one advancement to the second round of the playoffs. That’s not good enough.
Jarmo will be the GM to start the 2023-24 season whether fans like it or not. His relationship with John Davidson and this franchise’s hesitancy to fire anyone will see that through. That said, his seat should be getting warm. The Brad Larsen hiring, the Gudbranson signing, the loss of Bjorkstrand, and the failure to show any progress this season should be throwing doubt on Jarmo being the right GM going forward. Don’t forget, the front office went on record saying the current team could be playoff contenders. The recent handling of the development of prospects like Bemstrom and Sillinger aren’t exactly glowing endorsements either. If this team doesn’t start an upward trajectory next season, and there’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, I would hope a new GM would be in place before the summer of 2024.
I’ll say yes that Jarmo should see this through. It’s finally the bottom-out season that should have happened a long time ago. This is it though. Seat warms up starting next season.
I think it is time to move on from Jarmo. I would not do it at the deadline, but I would do it after the season. I do not feel that he has done nearly enough to enjoy the security he apparently enjoys, and his misses are egregious enough to call into question why he should be given more chances to get things right.
Sure, Jarmo took the team to the playoffs four times. In those four appearances, they won one playoff series and one play-in series in fake bubble. That’s not good enough. He got rid of Todd Richards, hired John Tortorella, and then hired Brad Larsen. Rarely, if ever, do general managers get to make three coaching hires. His hiring of Brad Larsen is enough to call into question what his decision making process is. If the process Jarmo has leads to hiring Larsen, hiring Sylvain Lefebvre, and signing Erik Gudbranson, I question judgment going forward.
Jarmo has not succeeded at the highest level in the league enough to retain his job, has only produced a team better than a wild card spot once in a decade, and his decision making of late calls into question his direction for the team moving forward. It is time to move on from Jarmo and get a fresh voice and direction heading into the draft and next season.
I’ve been a supporter of Jarmo for a long time. Despite some missteps here and there, the trendline of the team’s talent level kept going up. It didn’t always translate to on-ice success, but there were reasonable explanations for that: in 2014-15, the team was struck by an absurd number of injuries. In 2015-16, the slow start was blamed on coaching, and with a new coach and new top defensive pair the next season, a four year run of success began.
The first reversal of the talent trend came in the summer of 2019, but that was mostly out of Jarmo’s hands. Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene were always going to sign with their dream destination. Jarmo did burn a bridge with Sergei Bobrovsky, but he wasn’t going to match Florida’s offer anyway. Despite the departures, and another wave of injuries, the team remained competitive.
The next wave of departures came in late 2020, with Josh Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois both making it known they wanted out. Jarmo got good players in return, tough Max Domi, Patrik Laine, and Jack Roslovic weren’t good fits for Torts’ system. We’ll come back to this.
Things bottomed out in 2021, but Jarmo did an excellent job blowing things up. He collected a haul of assets for Nick Foligno, David Savard, and Seth Jones. He managed to extend Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Elvis Merzlikins as the new core of the team. Then came another big swing with the Johnny Gaudreau signing, and an extension of Patrik Laine.
But then...the team this year is bad. Really bad. It’s been another massive injury year, but even when healthy this team struggled. It lays bare a theme of Jarmo’s roster construction over the years: he has an eye for talent and does well to bring in great players, but these players don’t always fit together, nor do they fit the scheme of the coaching staff.
Does Jarmo want a high-powered offensive team that plays fast and shoots a lot, led by Laine and Gaudreau? Or does he want a physical, defensive team made up of Boone Jenner and Erik Gudbranson types? Can these things co-exist? If so, is Brad Larsen the coach to make that happen? So far it doesn’t appear that he is.
For the last ten years, the good moves by Jarmo outweighed the bad ones, but eventually the number of bad moves adds up. A theme that stood out this week is the way a bad move or bad outcome would lead to another. Losing William Karlsson in the expansion draft (we were always going to lose him, deal or no deal) hurt more because Alex Wennberg didn’t live up to his contract. We had to trade Oliver Bjorkstrand for below value as a cap casualty because of an inexcusable overpay of Gudbranson.
All of this is a long way to say: I still have a lot of hope in the talent the Blue Jackets have on the roster and in the pipeline. Another special player can be added in the draft this summer. BUT, I need to see some other changes made. We need a coaching staff better equiped to coach in today’s NHL, and to maximize the roster available to them. We need to move on from players who cannot clear the puck from the defensive zone and get it up ice with control. As a team near the cap, we need to see these changes very soon next season, or else it will be time for new leadership.
Is Jarmo the right GM to lead the Blue Jackets?
This poll is closed
I still trust Jarmo!
Get rid of him ASAP
Make a change after the season
Keep him, but we need to see improvement next season