Kekalainen himself told the media that he’d apologized to the team for hiring Babcock in the aftermath the former coach’s resignation yesterday afternoon. Blue Jackets ownership released a statement to the media as well expressing their disappointment and frustration with the events of the last week.
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff wrote an article today that asked the question “when will the sword fall on Kekalainen?” Kekalainen has been at the helm of the Blue Jackets for a decade now, and while they’ve reached the playoffs in five of the ten seasons, they have had a lot of missteps along the way. Seravalli begins the article with criticism of Kekalainen for thanking Babcock for his services and then begins to dissect the good and bad of his run as Blue Jackets GM. While the team has reached heights they have never seen before, like their playoff series win in 2019, they have had a lot of lows in that time too.
Seravalli is balanced as he highlights Kekalainen’s good drafting record, as well as the two Seth Jones trades (both of which he won), as well as getting the most out of the Nick Foligno and David Savard trades.
But he also finds a lot of room for criticism with some of Kekalainen’s moves as well. Columbus famously emptied the tank in 2019 to trade for Matt Duchene as they knew both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky would be leaving as free agents that summer. While it got them their first playoff series victory, one wonders how many future assets they could have kept and acquired if they opted to sell at that deadline rather than buying. Couple that deadline with last offseason and a free agent shopping spree that yielded a 59-point season, and it gives you room to wonder if Kekalainen’s tenure (the third longest in the NHL) is coming to an end after the Babcock scandal has once again highlighted some of Kekalainen’s mistakes.