The Disruptor: Inside First Month Of New Job, Don Waddell Is Quickly Making Needed Changes

By Will Chase on July 3, 2024 at 10:15 am
Don Waddell at his press conference introducing him as president, general manager, and alternate governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, May 29.
Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets needed change and there has been a lot of it since the season ended.

Since president and general manager Don Waddell came aboard in late May, the Columbus Blue Jackets have already undergone the beginning of a facelift.

Pascal Vincent is out as head coach as the Blue Jackets look to have his replacement hired soon, possibly over the next week.

Alexander Texier was traded to the St. Louis Blues at the NHL Draft last week for a fourth-round draft pick in next year’s draft. Adam Boqvist was bought out. Alex Nylander, Jake Bean, Nick Blankenburg, Tyler Angle, and Marcus Bjork did not receive a qualifying offer and became unrestricted free agents.

Sean Monahan was signed on Monday, reuniting with Johnny Gaudreau from their Calgary Flames days from 2013-22. Monahan's best season came in 2018-19 when he set career highs with 82 points, 34 goals, and 48 assists in 78 games.

He had injuries in 2021-22 and 2022-23 but rebounded this past season with 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists) in 83 games between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets.

"(Monahan's) a first-line centerman with a great history," Waddell said. "He's worn letters in different places he's been. What we set out to do today, we accomplished."

The Jackets are starting to add a lot of depth to the center position, and it seems likely Monahan will center Gaudreau on the first line.

"The family side of it was a huge aspect, and Columbus was high on my list, with or without Johnny," Monahan said. "It worked out, and my family and I are very excited. 

"I’ve talked to (Johnny) a bunch; he’s one of my best friends. My wife's great friends with his wife. We're both excited. We get to play with each other again, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

On Tuesday, Columbus signed center Dylan Gambrell to a one-year, two-way contract for $775,000, and they brought back Jack Johnson on a one-year deal for the NHL minimum $775,000.

We're still waiting on a potential Patrik Laine trade, and there might be additional depth signings Waddell looks to fill through free agency.

The label disruptor has been on my mind since The Athletic's Aaron Portzline mentioned that in his April 19 interview with John Davidson.

Our culture ... it needs to be improved, absolutely. We have to improve it. That's just what it is, that's just me being honest.

When you make changes at (the GM level), it should stimulate everything in the organization, from A to Z. This guy is going to come in and make up his mind on things. He'll have a look at the entire organization. Everybody here now understands that, that we’re going to look at everything.

Whereas Columbus could have been warranted in taking a flyer on a guy like Nylander, who scored 15 points (11 goals, four assists) in 23 games, Waddell decided he didn’t fit into the team’s future.

How often in the past have we wondered whether a hot streak could carry over or if it was nothing more than an unsustainable mirage?

Vincent might someday make a solid NHL head coach, and he was brought into a tough situation, but as Waddell has said, the team needs a veteran coach for the group as currently constructed.

Columbus has had its best success when guided by veteran head coaches.

Columbus made the playoffs under Hall of Fame coach Ken Hitchcock and the team had its best years under John Tortorella's tutelage.

Todd McLellan was linked to the job last week when John Buccigross posted on X (formerly Twitter). McLellan is 598-412-134 in his career with his 598 wins ranking 24th all-time.

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