Reviewing The Tenure of Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson, Part II

By Dan Greene on July 23, 2022 at 11:45 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand celebrates his goal with left wing Patrik Laine and right wing Jakub Voracek during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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Good or Bad? What grade would you give Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson for their performance thus far?

As we discussed in part one of our review on Jarmo Kekalainen's and John Davidson's careers with the Blue Jackets, they have had their fair share of both supporters and detractors. However, it is interesting how quickly the majority's opinion can change based on one transaction. 

Last time we looked at how the Erik Gudbranson signing brought out widespread negative analysis of how good of a job the Columbus front office was doing. Then, just as quickly as the opinions turned sharply negative, they did a complete 180 and ended up in the land of complete admiration and undying devotion. 

So, without further ado, let's take a look at some more of the most significant moves of their tenure in the capital city and determine just how much praise they realistically deserve.

  • Father Time Drives Savard Bargain

Just like the title suggests, this review includes David Savard and the subject of aging. However, it also includes Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson. While these are technically three separate deals, they have all been lumped together, due not only to their chronological proximity to each other but especially due to the fact that the three of them were all dealt away for the same reason.

Father Time had caught up to them to the extent that they were no longer able to be key pieces in the Blue Jackets retool/rebuild, but He had not yet taken enough of their skill to remove their trade value. Thus, they had to be moved to make room for younger, up-and-coming players and to stockpile more draft assets to assist with replenishing the prospect pool.

While the three of the aforementioned players still had trade value, the front office of Kekäläinen and Davidson got a larger return than most would’ve anticipated. This is what the Blue Jackets sent out and received from the three trades.

Blue Jackets Sent Blue Jackets Recieved
1) Cam Atkinson Jakub Voracek
2) David Savard 1st round pick in 2021 and 2nd round in 2022
3) Nick Foligno 1st round pick in 2021 and 4th round in 2022

Two of these trades were for draft picks, and both of the drafts containing these picks are over. So before we get into any analysis on these trades, let's look at who the Blue Jackets' received.

The first-round draft pick Columbus received for Savard was used in the Seth Jones trade. The third-round pick in that trade was used to pick Jordan Dumais - an undersized but talented forward out of Quebec. 

The first-round pick the Jackets received in the Foligno trade was used to select Corson Ceulemans - by all accounts a gifted defenseman with raw potential. The club is letting him marinate at the University of Wisconsin as he is not quite fully cooked, just yet. The fourth-round pick was used in the trade to acquire Mathieu Olivier - a depth and toughness signing. Olivier is not extremely talented and will not get too many minutes on the ice, but he was brought into the organization to help increase the physicality and toughness of the team, especially the forwards. 

So to recap, the Blue Jackets received Voracek, Ceulemans, Dumais, Olivier, and a piece of the Seth Jones trade for Atkinson, Foligno, and Savard. Though, one important note is that Foligno and Savard's contracts were up at the end of the 2020-21 season (just a couple of months after the trades). It is unlikely that Columbus would have been able to resign them unless it was to very short deals or for less than they were worth. Also, the team simply needed to clear minutes for the younger players to gain much-needed experience and for the organization to properly evaluate them.

The fifth line is by and large familiar with the players that they let go in these trades: longtime captain Nick Foligno, goal-scoring franchise record holder Cam Atkinson, and brick wall defenseman David Savard. But what about the players they received.

The Blue Jackets welcomed home Jakub Voracek, whose first team in the NHL was the Columbus Blue Jackets. In his first season back with the team, he had 56 assists, second all-time in franchise history. Ceulemans will most likely join the team after one more year at the University of Wisconsin and is expected to jump in and help bolster a weak blue line. Dumais will likely develop elsewhere for a few years, but he does remind one of non-other than Atkinson himself, undersized but tenacious and a talented goal scorer. As discussed, Olivier is a depth and toughness acquisition and as for the piece of the Seth Jones trade, you can read more about that trade in part one of our review (link at the beginning of the article).

It was painful to say goodbye to not only great, selfless, and good locker room players, but in many ways, the Blue Jackets were parting ways with the faces of the franchise. However, these moves were necessary for the team to move in a new direction. Another rebuild was a painful prospect to a fifth line that had already endured so many. But a little over a year in and the team is in prime position to make a run at the playoffs. Therefore this rebuild may indeed be the retooling that the front office tried so hard to convince us it was.

The team did an admirable job in bringing back pieces that will help it to move one step closer to eventual cup contention.​

  • The Forecast calls for Flurries

​The 2019 trade deadline was a pivotal moment in the team's buildup for a run at the cup. The attempt fell far short as the Blue Jackets won only one playoff series, albeit one of the most exciting and shocking series sweeps in NHL history, as they swept the overwhelming cup favorites, The Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first round. 

The team also failed to sign a single one of their acquisitions to an extension and therefore lost each of them that offseason. They also lost former Vezina trophy-winning Goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky and star left winger, Artemi Panarin, thus blowing up the team and necessitating the rebuild/retool.

This may seem bleak but in hindsight, each of their acquisitions: Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam Mcquaid, as well as Bobrovsky, and Panarin either were commanding too much money on the open market or were not a good fit with the team. If you follow each of their careers after they left Columbus, the team dodged a bullet with all of them, including Panarin who, while still a potent offensive weapon, has had some injury issues since leaving the team.

  • Sign On The Dotted Laine Part II

This time Patrik Laine did indeed sign on the dotted Laine. The club just signed the goal-scoring machine to a four-year extension. Now the first line will feature Johnny Gaudreauon on the left and Laine on the right for at least the next four years. This is an extremely exciting prospect, and there is nothing else that is truly needed to analyze this trade. You can talk about money and term, but at the end of the day, they had to extend Laine in order to maximize the Gaudreau signing and they had to take what they could get. Also, make no mistake about it, the front office negotiated their butts off in this one, it is almost a certainty that Laine wanted a lot more money than this and they were able to talk him down. Good on them.

Based on the marquee deals of their tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets, what grade would you give the front office, in particular, John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen?

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