In What's Obviously Been A Tough Season Through And Through, Finally, A Breath Of Fresh Air For Jackets

By Will Chase on February 19, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner celebrates with Damon Severson and Jack Roslovic after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Do things feel a little ... lighter?

A whirlwind the past few days for all involved with the Columbus Blue Jackets, it's never easy to turn the page.

Especially when it involves dismissing a central figure who's been a large part of the franchise and central fabric of the community for the past 11 years.

Four days since the Columbus Blue Jackets fired its longest-tenured general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets are a clean 1-0-0 following a late 4-3 win at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Before Saturday's game started, the NHL officially declared Mar. 1, 2025, as the date the Blue Jackets will host the Detroit Red Wings at Ohio Stadium, marking the Blue Jackets' first outdoor game in franchise history.

Inside the locker room, it's hard to know the feelings of those who put on the sweater and go out there every night.

Could the events of Kekalainen's firing on Thursday bring the team together?

"We're not going to use this to bring the team together," head coach Pascal Vincent said on Friday. "We need a strong foundation, playing for each other, going through the trenches together, facing adversity together.

"One of our brother got let go. We understand the business that we're in. We know it's potentially there for all of us. But I don't think it's going to create something very positive or something negative."

Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner leads the team in most areas on the ice and has done his part to lead the way of late.

Since the All-Star Break, Jenner has four goals in all three games, with two third-period goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 10 and the game-winning goal with 12.9 seconds left in Saturday's win over the Sharks.

Jenner leads the team in goals (17), is tied with Yegor Chinakhov for the team lead in even-strength goals (13), and leads all forwards in ice time (19:35), and face-off percentage (54.7%).

Jenner has eclipsed at least 22:00 in ice time in all three games since the Break. He played a regular-season career-high 26:42 to lead the Blue Jackets in the 6-3 loss against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 13, led all players outside of Zach Werenski with 22:46 ice time in Saturday's win, and played 22:03 against the Lightning on Feb. 10.

This has struck a chord for some considering A) the Blue Jackets are not in playoff contention and Jenner has been hampered by back injuries, such as the season-enders in 2021-22 and 2022-23, and B) The amount of ice time Jenner is getting while players like Kent Johnson played a career-low 6:57 on Saturday. Dmitri Voronkov played 11:55 against Ottawa and scored a goal.

Rampant interest in Jenner would likely continue to increase with the trade deadline three weeks away. Although Jenner has made it known he'd rather stay in Columbus and president John Davidson said on The Jeff Marek Show (11:12) on Feb. 16 that they won't trade Jenner, despite the interest around the league.

The trade deadline is part of the interesting timing of letting Kekalainen go now, as opposed to in the offseason. As we've learned in the days since the Blue Jackets knew they were making a change, the timing just happened to work out on Feb. 15. We previously wondered about what change could look like for the franchise ahead of important dates like the trade deadline.

How president John Davidson and his management team navigate the trade deadline only intensifies with interest.

As the Blue Jackets search for a new voice to lead the way from the top, there's excitement about the change that's necessary and finally coming. There's the energy around the outdoor game that is to come next year.

In a season muddled with negativity and struggle, finally, we can all exhale for a minute and breathe a breath of fresh air.