Just over a week after his sudden and tragic passing, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks was laid to rest Thursday. While the memorial service itself was private, it was livestreamed to give Blue Jacket fans a chance to say goodbye to a man we were only just getting to know.
Brad Larsen spoke first. Then it was Nathan Gerbe, then Manny Legace, and finally, Elvis Merzlikins. Each told stories about the man they (and we) knew as "Kivi", but it was Merzlikins who assured no dry eyes as he spoke of what his "little brother" did in the last moments of his life.
"When it happened, I was standing 20, 30 feet back of him and I was hugging my wife," said Merzlikins. "He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me."
"That's not just what I said. That's what the doctor said."
I mentioned last week that one of the tough parts of this for fans of the team is that we didn't get to know Kivlenieks, the man. We didn't get to see what Merzlikins, Legace, Larsen, Gerbe, and so many others saw. There are a lot of things in life that don't make sense, but nothing more than a good person going too soon.
In the case of Kivi, it's a great person gone way too soon. May he rest in peace.
There's no easy transition from that, and if there were, it still wouldn't feel right. Here are some other thoughts as the Blue Jackets gear up for an intense few months.
With all due respect to Joonas Korpisalo, he has to be the goalie who is traded assuming that the Blue Jackets part with a goalie over the next few weeks. Merzlikins' value on the ice is equally as good or better, and his value to the community is invaluable. While we're at it, give #80 to Merzlikins. The bond these two had was just incredible, and I have to imagine Elvis would want nothing more than to honor his friend by wearing his jersey number.
There's no way the Blue Jackets can get Kirby Dach or Alex Debrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks in a Seth Jones trade, right? Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this week that a Jones trade starts with one of them, but the Blackhawks may be hesitant to part with either.
31 Thoughts podcast, properly titled Listen Before Everything Changes. Enjoy! All links included here:https://t.co/ByjvGoAL1C— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 13, 2021
They should be hesitant. Even if he was signed long-term, I'm not sure if Jones is worth either of the young, promising talents. Also, starts with? Ok. As things stand today, if I'm Jarmo, I make a straight one-for-one deal for either of them. If this is really the starting point, the Blackhawks can't seriously consider that.. but their acquisition of Caleb Jones (Seth's brother) earlier this week wasn't just coincidence, right? If they want him bad enough, maybe they'll pull the trigger. Wouldn't be the first time Columbus got an elite, young talent from Chicago. #Panarin
If I'm Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis (so close!), Eric Robinson is heading to the Kraken. Gus Nyquist is coming off an injury and is too expensive, and Dean Kukan probably will peak as a third-pairing defenseman. Kevin Stenlund is a tempting selection, but Robinson just feels like the player with the most upside. If the Blue Jackets want Robinson on the roster next season, it may require a deal with the newest franchise in the NHL.
Speaking of the draft, the Blue Jackets should go defense - unless William Eklund is available at #5. Dylan Guenther would also be tempting if still around, but Columbus has drafted a defenseman with a top 50 pick just once in the last half decade. That was Andrew Peeke in 2016, at #34 overall in the second round. Peeke should make the roster this year, but what kind of player he can be remains to be seen. The Blue Jackets have plenty of young talent, led by the Russian wingers of Yegor Chinakov, Kirill Marchenko, and Dimitri Voronkov. Eklund seems to be worth it, but otherwise, it's time to start rebuilding the blue line.
Don't know if they'll do it, and there are strong opinions both ways, but if Nick Foligno wants to come back to the team, mark me down as "for it." This team has had a tough offseason, from the obvious with the passing of Kivlenieks, to the less-obvious-but-still-important fact reconstruction of a coaching staff. Foligno's veteran presence and proven ability as a leader would be a welcome comfort for a team that could use some.