Jarmo Kekalainen Says Decision on Next Blue Jackets Head Coach Expected “Sooner Rather Than Later”

By Coby Maeir on May 9, 2023 at 10:15 am
Jarmo Kekalainen

After the Blue Jackets lost the NHL Draft Lottery and were awarded the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen spoke with the media Monday night. 

Picking Third Overall

While it's not the outcome the Blue Jackets had hoped for, Kekalainen said that the Blue Jackets will get a great player with the third pick.

"Everybody's talked about a special player at the top of the rankings," Kekalainen said. "But we're confident that we're gonna get a big difference maker at three."

Kekalainen reiterated that the Blue Jackets will select a great player approximately nine times throughout his availability.

"I can't emphasize it enough," Kekalainen said. "I guess I've repeated myself quite a few times now. But we're gonna get a difference-maker. We're gonna get a player that's going to change the direction of the franchise."

While the player they select at three could be great, he may not be on the Blue Jackets roster in 2023-24.

"I've said this many times that this is not a sprint," Kekalainen said. "It's a marathon and it's about who has the best career."

Kekalainen later added that waiting for a prospect may not be a bad thing at all.

"You've seen in the past where teams wait for a player for a few years and then they make a huge impact when they get on the team and turn the franchise around," Kekalainen said. "And it was worth the wait for a couple of years. Two, three years, whatever it takes. And I'm confident that the player we get at three is going to have a huge impact on this franchise."

Kekalainen said that picking second or third wouldn't change their willingness to trade that pick. 

"It's gonna take a lot before we would move back from those positions," Kekalainen said. 

Next Blue Jackets Head Coach

Kekalainen said that the lottery did not have an impact on the team's coaching search and the wait to learn who the team's next head coach will be shouldn't be too long.

"We should expect a decision on that sooner rather than later," Kekalainen said. "But we want to make sure that we do our due diligence very carefully."

Kekalainen said that while experience is an advantage, it's not the only criterion he's looking at for the new head coach.

"[Experience is] never gonna work against you, Kekalainen said. "But at the same time, every great coach in this league had to get a start at some point. So it's not the only [criterion] that we have. [We look at] passion for the game, attention to details, [and] the standard that they set every day, whether it's on the ice or off the ice. Those are the most important things that we're looking for."

Kekalainen also said what the issue has been over the past two years, which coincides with Brad Larsen's tenure as Blue Jackets head coach.

"We've felt that we've had a real good culture here for many years where the standard was high," Kekalainen said. "The way we work, the pride we take in our work was very high. And we have let it slip a little bit in the last couple of years here and now it's time to get back to it."

Glaring need at Center

Kekalainen said that they need to strengthen the center position and that he's confident they can find one in the draft. 

"I think there'll be a great center iceman available at three," Kekalainen said, later adding that "we'll take our pick at three and it'll be a great player."

The Combine

Kekalainen said that almost all of what goes into the decision of who to draft comes from the player's play on the ice, but added that the combine helps the team know how they can help the players they draft once they select them. 

"They're incredible athletes already [for] what they do on the ice in the games," Kekalainen said. "So it's our responsibility to get them in the right direction understanding what the physical demands of the NHL are. But obviously, you look at the combine and the testing and all those things to gather more information. And it's not just to rank the players but also to know what needs to be done after you make your selection and how you get your hands on right away directing him or getting him to go [in] the right direction right away."

The NHL Draft is just 50 days away. What will the Blue Jackets do with the third overall pick?

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