When the Blue Jackets made their moves at the trade deadline, a lot of experts were left scratching their heads.
Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets' general manager, went all-out at the deadline in a "win-now" approach.
Woke up thinking about this quote from Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, before the playoffs started: pic.twitter.com/d6V2rtsp6r— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) April 17, 2019
The bold choice by Kekalainen to go all-in and risk losing two of his best players in Panarin and Bobrovsky for nothing, as well as acquiring two more unrestricted free agents in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, was unexpected.
It was clear that if the revamped Blue Jackets failed to perform, Kekalainen's job would be in danger, as well as head coach John Tortorella's.
It wasn't smooth sailing at first. In their first long stretch of games after the deadline, the Blue Jackets went 5-7-1 and found themselves teetering on the edge of playoff contention. A 4-1 loss to lowly Edmonton was the tipping point, and Columbus went 7-1 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets stunningly swept Tampa Bay, the President's Trophy winners, in the first round. In the second round, they put up a good fight but bowed out to the Boston Bruins in six games.
Was the season successful? It depends on who you ask.
On one hand, the Blue Jackets made the playoffs, which was in no way a given at the deadline. They pulled off the first-ever sweep of a President's Trophy winner and took Boston to six games — the Bruins are now in the Stanley Cup Finals.
On the other hand, the Blue Jackets didn't win the Stanley Cup. The offseason UFA drama is beginning, and it's already looking like Panarin and Bobrovsky won't re-sign with Columbus. The Blue Jackets only have two picks in this year's NHL draft — a third rounder and a seventh rounder.
While there are two schools of thought on the success of the Blue Jackets, it's imperative to acknowledge the excitement that Kekalainen's aggressive moves drummed up around the NHL. People were suddenly rooting for the Blue Jackets to succeed because it would be good for the league and dispel the notion that teams should stand pat or deal their stars at the deadline.
"We wanted to send a message to the fan base and the locker room at the deadline that we're serious about winning."– Kekalainen on the Blue Jackets' deadline moves
If Kekalainen had dealt Panarin and/or Bobrovsky at the deadline, he would have sent the wrong message. It's clear what Kekalainen's deals at the deadline meant to the fans in Columbus, as the city caught even more Blue Jackets fever than usual and ran rampant with it.
We're roughly nine months away from the 2020 NHL trade deadline. It will be interesting to see what, if any, GMs choose to follow Kekalainen's lead and go all-in. Do the potential risks outweigh the potential rewards, or vice versa?
Folks, we'll just have to see.