Jarmo Kekalainen Named Blue Jackets GM After Team Parts Ways With Scott Howson
The Blue Jackets today named Jarmo Kekalainen GM, which is a "historic hiring, one that will resonate across the world of hockey," as Kekalainen is the "first European to ascend to the role of GM in the NHL," according to Aaron Portzline of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Kekalainen replaces Scott Howson, who was "fired early yesterday after six-plus seasons." Kekalainen from '02-10 worked as Blues Amateur Scouting Dir, "where he met and worked closely with" Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. Prior to his time with the Blues, Kekalainen "spent seven seasons" with the Senators, five of them as Player Personnel Dir (DISPATCH.com, 2/13). Portzline writes replacing the team's GM is the “first significant move” for Davidson with the Blue Jackets. Davidson said that he “mulled this decision for weeks, but wanted to have a replacement lined up" before making the move. Howson was in his sixth season as GM, after being hired to "clean up the mess left by predecessor Doug MacLean." Almost all of Howson’s moves "in the early years seemed successful," but since the ’08-09 season, it has been “mostly a struggle, pockmarked by firing two coaches, questionable contracts and a fiasco late last season" when RW Rick Nash asked to be traded (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/13). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes a “good case could be made" to fire Howson. The “clamor to get rid of him had been growing among fans for more than three years, or since Howson sacked coach Ken Hitchcock.” But Arace asks, “Did you see this coming? ... I did not.” Part of Davidson’s “established expertise is in blending personalities and getting everyone to work together,” and he is “not one to clean house post-haste.” Howson “could have worked well under Davidson.” He has "the brains, the expertise and the humility to excel as a right-hand man” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/13).