|Jarmo Kekalainen has worked in the Sens and Blues front offices. (Getty Images)|
The Columbus Blue Jackets wasted no time replacing the fired Scott Howson as general manager. On Wednesday morning, club president John Davidson announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen.
With the hiring, Kekalainen becomes the first European GM in NHL history. In case you thought with that name that Kekalainen is Irish, no (please, somebody create a sarcasm font already). Kekalainen is Finnish and has been running the famed Jokerit franchise in the Finnish League.
This represents a hiring that was certainly a bit out of the box and definitely refreshing to see. So often in both the coaching and general managing scenes, the decision-makers get too familiar with the same people and it ends up just being a continuous cycle of hiring the same people. It's not often that new faces are introduced.
"Hockey is a truly global game and there are very few people whose knowledge of the game in North America and abroad surpasses that of Jarmo Kekalainen," Davidson said in a team release. "He is intelligent, hard-working and a tremendous evaluator of talent. He is a terrific addition to the Blue Jackets family and will play an important role in our efforts to move our organization forward in the coming years."
Despite being just 46 years old, Kekalainen has a wealth of GM experience. After a brief playing career, which included stops with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, Kekalainen retired in 1995 and has been working in front offices since. He worked as director of player personnel for the Sens before moving to St. Louis to become assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, a job which he held until becoming Jokerit's GM in 2010.
As you might now, Davidson himself just came to the Blue Jackets from St. Louis, so obviously he knows who he is getting in Kekalainen. They worked together for four years in St. Louis.
Between his two jobs in Ottawa and St. Louis, you see some of the names he has been responsable for drafting and quickly realize he has an eye for talent. Some of the names he helped his teams select are Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo. Not a bad resume starter.
His goal all along was to be a general manager in the NHL. Now he's reached it.
"I am very grateful to the McConnell family, John Davidson and the Blue Jackets organization for this opportunity and am looking forward to getting started," Kekalainen said. "We have a great challenge before us, but I am confident through hard work, organization and commitment that we will achieve our goal of building a Stanley Cup contending team."
Well, he does have his work cut out for him.
The Blue Jackets have been under Howson's managment since June of 2007 and while the team had its one and only playoff appearance, the majority of his tenure has been rather forgettable. Columbus had the worst record in the league last season (but still didn't get the first overall pick).
When Davidson was brought in it seemed like the end was finally here for Howson but he remained on the job for a while. It now seems apparent that it was just a matter of lining up a replacement first.
Kekalainen will begin working for the Blue Jackets as soon as he can get immigration issues figured out first. But once that's straightened out, he takes over right away.