Mike Babcock failed to learn his lesson. He resigned from his position as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday. This decision was made after the National Hockey League Players’ Association conducted an investigation into him allegedly asking players to show personal photos to him. Columbus also promoted assistant coach Pascal Vincent to the head role. The man responsible for this promotion is Finland’s own Jarmo Kekalainen.
Some heads in the hockey community have turned toward the longtime Jackets general manager. In a “what have you done for me lately” league where one false move is the difference between a paycheck and a pink slip, Kekalainen has managed to stay afloat. In his time with Columbus, beginning in 2013, the organization has seen five different head coaches (one that Kekalainen inherited).
Head coach history
Todd Richards, who began in 2012, guided the Jackets to the playoffs once prior to his firing in 2015. Since then, Jarmo Kekalainen has tried and failed to find the coach that will put Columbus over the top. Here is a look at his hiring record since then.
From 2015 until 2021, John Tortorella took the reins. While he guided the Jackets to the playoffs four times in his six years with the team, they reached the second round of the playoffs once. Tortorella also only got the team above 100 standings points just once. After missing the playoffs in the 2021 season, he left the team.
Kekalainen decided to promote Brad Larsen from within to become the head coach for the 2021-22 season. While promoting from within is never a bad thing in business, coaches such as Bruce Boudreau and Gerard Gallant were available. While these coaches are not the difference for a team like Columbus between playoffs and the draft lottery, neither would have coached their team to a 59-point season. After Brad Larsen came Mike Babcock and the rest is history.
Is it time for Columbus to move on?
It was time to move on from Jarmo Kekalainen. Under his watch, the Jackets have been alright at best and very bad at worst. If one best-of-seven series win in a decade is the best a general manager’s team can do, the problems are at the top of the organization. It is the general manager’s job to assemble a team that wins a championship.
No Jackets team Kekalainen has constructed has fit that mold. Even the “all-in” team from 2019 that made history fell flat in the second round against Boston. This saga with Mike Babcock in particular is grounds for relief of duties in other departments. There is next to no real justification for hiring the man who was the first domino to fall in the great coach exodus of 2019-2020, particularly when his issues are well-documented and the clash of methods was predictable.
The unique thing about sports is the industry is more fluid than perhaps any other industry in the world. Adaptation is so much more key in sports than anywhere else. Jarmo Kekalainen has failed in that department. The Columbus Blue Jackets need a change of pace at the top. Tough decisions need to be made, and the decision to wish Jarmo Kekalainen the best of luck in his future endeavors may be one of them.
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