Jarmo Kekalainen, tried to tell us. He never wavered in his assessment of the Columbus Blue Jackets roster he put together. While media outlets and fans not to mention hockey experts scoffed at the notion that the Blue Jackets were not reloading but about to enter a full-blown rebuild. Kekalainen insisted his team was indeed reloading. At 7-3, tying the best start in franchise history, Jarmo Kekalainen has to be grinning.
What is going on with the Columbus Blue Jackets? A massive roster overhaul chalked full of young players, some of which have barely any NHL experience while others are rookies sprinkled with some veterans have the Blue Jackets playing well.
I dare say not many people (myself included) saw this coming. Yet, here the Blue Jackets are and it appears they are not going away anytime soon. Is this a playoff team? It is still early in the season so that is difficult to forecast. That is not to say they are not. After the start they have had and as young players seem to be getting better with each game played, anything is possible.
Gritty, savvy, undeterred, pick one. Shoot pick all three. This is what I feel best describes the start of the 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets season. It has been very good to witness the job head coach Brad Larsen and his coaching staff has done. From game preparation to in-game adjustments Larsen is pushing all the right buttons.
Sure the 3 losses were clunkers, that said every team has clunker games during the course of the season including would be Stanley Cup champions. The bad games aside, the Blue Jackets have bounced back after the bad losses to win the next game played.
While a losing streak could turn up, so could a winning streak. How about the third periods for the Blue Jackets? In what use to be a bad timeframe the Blue Jackets are now finding a way to finish games. In fact, Columbus is making a thing out of third period comebacks and wins.
This is the team that Jarmo Kekalainen has put together. With it doubters have been silenced.
As NHL training camp is about two weeks away, the Columbus Blue Jackets have some serious work to do. At the top of the training camp list is finding a top line center. At the moment the reshaped Blue Jackets roster is void of any such vital position player. It is being widely speculated the team is going to give a long look at Jack Roslovic to see if he can step in and step up.
With newly drafted centers Kent Johnson (heading back to the University of Michigan) and Cole Sillinger (could be headed to the Cleveland Monsters) not expected this season in Columbus, the Blue Jackets still have a major issue at center. Both Johnson and Sillinger are projected to be very good NHL players, but first development must take place.
Jack Roslovic, who can play center and in fact did so for the Blue Jackets last season has never been viewed as a player who can handle the top line. Yet, that is what the Blue Jackets need. They also need a center who can feed the puck to Patrik Laine.
There is a lot of pressure playing on the top line in the NHL. After all that is the line that is supposed to lead the way in terms of goals and minutes played. One thing that Jack Roslovic will have going for him is he will have Jakub Voracek (right wing) and Laine (left wing) on either side of him. That can do nothing but help the young Roslovic.
Playing two minutes per game longer than he did the season prior with the Winnipeg Jets (2019-20), Roslovic tied his NHL high with 12 goals and set career marks with 22 assists and 34 points. Offense is not really an issue for Roslovic.
On defense however, Roslovic was a bit of a hot mess as was his alarming struggles in the faceoff circle. To be fair he did improve a bit on faceoffs late in the season. But, in today’s NHL top line centers are expected to be solid two-way players.
His growth into a top line center has a lot of variables to it. First, Roslovic needs lean into his work ethic and work his tail off. Secondly, Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen and his new system must be solid to give the young center an chance to grow his game. Assistant coaches will be counted on heavily.
It is not ideal, but this is what the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to see through, one way or another.
Flashback to the 2016 NHL Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets had the third overall pick in the first round. That is the draft the Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois. What may not be well known to some Blue Jacket fans is that the team had a predraft visit with defensemen Jake Bean who would be selected by the Carolina Hurricanes. Yet, it was in the days before the draft that the Blue Jackets front office and Jake Bean developed a fondness for each other.
Jake Bean became a full-time starter for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. He was then traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and signed to a three year contract extension.
Jake Bean is happy to be a Blue Jacket. He also likes the city of Columbus. Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets general manager, recently said during the draft process the Blue Jackets really liked Bean. One thing has been clear, Jake Bean looks like he is ready to take his game to the next level.
The loaded Carolina Hurricanes defensive corps created a logjam and Bean had a hard time cracking the lineup so he was stuck in the AHL. Bean got his chance last season. Bean is a solid defender with an upside to his offensive game.
Jake Bean can quarterback the power play as well has help on a penalty kill. When he was drafted in 2016, Bean was widely viewed as a very good two-way player.
The Blue Jackets who are shaking up the roster traded for a player with very good upside. The Blue Jackets organization was wise in trading for Bean and extending his contract. His minutes will certainly go up in Columbus and his style of play should make Blue Jackets fans happy.
Going back to the predraft visit, Jake Bean is finally a Columbus Blue Jacket and is happy he is.
In recent years the Columbus Blue Jackets have been known around the NHL for having a very good defense. That is because both General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of the Blue Jackets front office believed and still do that defense is the key to playing good hockey and contending for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even during a re-(call it what you will) the focus is once again on the blue line.
The Columbus Blue Jackets defense is going to be very young heading into training camp and the 2021-22 NHL season. In fact the oldest member of the blue line is Vladislav Gavrikov at just 25 years old. Yet there is some talented young players who will be counted on to continue to develop at the NHL level.
The Columbus Blue Jackets penalty kill (PK) has been very good in recent years. The organization now needs to sift through and find line combo’s to try to get to that same level. It goes without saying Zach Werenski and the aforementioned Gavrikov will be out there during the PK. The team needs to then choose from Andrew Peeke, Dean Kukan, Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean and a few others.
The Blue Jackets defenders must keep it simple and not do too much. That is something they exceled in, in the past. Very often young players try to do too much. The best option for the younger players to to play according to the situation.
While it is still anyone’s guess as to line pairings it seems as of this moment that former Blue Jackets first round draft pick Gabriel Carlsson will finally get a longer look. He had fallen out of favor with the previous coaching staff.
With a young blue line it is important to understand they will look awful at times. Yet there will be times when they flash what they can be. This is what a re- whatever looks like.
What fans should focus on in my opinion is if both Andrew Peeke and Gabriel Carlsson find footing and fit into the future Columbus Blue Jackets defensive plans.
The Columbus Blue Jackets just concluded the most successful run in team history. As the organization and fans said goodbye to many familiar faces who helped push the Blue Jackets to four Stanley Cup Playoff appearances the team has embarked on a fresh start. A start that began with a very good 2021 NHL Draft and has fans excited about the future. Yet the revamping will last at least two years and a lot can happen.
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen built a nice hockey team and one that tasted some playoff success. As good as those Blue Jackets teams were there was something missing. The defense was good, the goalies and wingers as well. But the team lacked top talent at center.
Enter Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger both centers, both taken by the Blue Jackets with the first two of the teams three first round draft picks. Johnson and Sillinger give the Blue Jackets some very good talent at a position that needs it most.
Kekalainen is revamping the Blue Jackets from the back out. His blue line (defense) looks as good as it ever has only younger. Players like Patrik Laine are young and talented.
As with any revamping it comes with huge question marks. For instance Can the organization repeat another strong draft next year? It absolutely must if the revamping is not to suffer a setback.
Defensemen Zach Werenski received a massive contract last week. Will there be any more such contracts handed out like to say Laine? That remains to be seen.
As much success that Kekalainen helped the Blue Jackets achieve, a revamping comes with stress. The long time GM needs to be shrewd and fearless. So far so good. Yet if there are any miss steps it would be disastrous to the timeline of getting back into contending for playoff spots.
This could be a case of the Columbus Blue Jackets allowing Jarmo Kekalainen to prove he can put a winner on the ice if not………………….
Last week when the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks, the organization got a very nice haul. First round draft picks, a second round draft pick and the Blue Jackets also received the Blackhawks top rated prospect, defensemen Adam Boqvist. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen remade his defensive unit during the NHL Draft weekend and the unit is as strong as it has ever been. So what does Adam Boqvist bring to the Blue Jackets? A lot, let’s examine.
The Chicago Blackhawks who are in the midst of their own rebuild were not really in position to just give away top prospects. Yet, the Blackhawks felt that Seth Jones would help to speed up their current rebuild. Adam Boqvist was not just a throw in, in the trade. Boqvist is simply too good to be a toss in.
Adam Boqvist is a right-shot defensemen, he is an exceptional play maker. Boqvist, possesses a big and accurate shot and is able to find space in between opponents to get the puck to the net. Boqvist plays very well in traffic.
In the defensive end of the ice, Boqvist has cleaned up his game and is an above average defender coupled with mobility, puck skills, and offensive attack that makes him extremely valuable. Adam Boqvist projects as a 1st pairing defenseman.
So in essence the Blue Jackets traded a 1st pairing defensemen for a 1st pairing defensemen and also received draft picks. Boqvist is 6 years younger than Seth Jones.
It is easy to see a future Columbus Blue Jackets top-defensive pairing of Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist. Both are solid defenders and both can find the back of the net in the offensive end.
With the moves made during the draft weekend, Jarmo Kekalainen has sped up the Blue Jackets rebuild. He did so by solidifying (rightfully so) the blue line. Kekalainen has always said he prefers to build from the back (goalie and defense) out. Which is the correct way to build a hockey team.
After trading away long time captain Nick Foligno, the Columbus Blue Jackets are in the market for a new voice to fill the void left. Fresh off of contract extensions both Boone Jenner (longest tenured Blue Jacket) who has the respect of the front office, coach’s and teammates makes sense to wear the captain’s “C.” So does defensive standout Zach Werenski who was captain of the Michigan Wolverines hockey team and also has the respect from all involved.
In my opinion, Jenner and Werenski are two players who are worthy of being the Columbus Blue Jackets next captain. They possess an over-the-top work ethic and command the attention and respect of the entire Blue Jackets organization because of the way they go about their work.
Whichever one does not wear the captain’s “C,” is nearly a slam dunk to wear an “A” (Alternate captain.) There is no secret recipe to picking a captain. Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen said they will know when they have the right person and in all likely hood they have already identified that person.
Fans want to know right now who if anyone will be the next Blue Jackets captain. Kekalainen said the team can wait until training camp right up to the start of the season. There is a chance the team may not name a captain for the 2021-22 NHL season but that seems remote given the choices the organization has.
Both Jenner and Werenski would make excellent captain’s. Yet, knowing the two players it is safe to say whichever or whoever is named captain they will root for and continue to respect each other and both will continue to lead by example and speak up and out as needed.
Both Jenner, (Who has been a Blue Jackets alternate captain) and Werenski qualify for the void left by Foligno. In my opinion the two players are going to head into camp as the two top targets for the captain’s “C.”
The perception around the NHL has been the Columbus Blue Jackets are unable to keep star players. There has been truth to that. Until last night when the Blue Jackets announced they have signed defensive standout Zach Werenski to a 6 year $57.5 million dollar contract extension. Just like that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has silenced the chatter.
Not long ago, I wrote that the Columbus Blue Jackets should offer defensive standout Zach Werenski the deal they were rumored to be offering then Blue Jackets defensive standout Seth Jones. Thursday night out of the blue that is exactly what the franchise did.
There are no two ways about it, this is a major win for Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets. To not only draft a player, develop him into an All-Star caliber and a player who is gifted in the offensive end and has really taken big steps defensively and lock him up in his prime is huge.
Zach Werenski who since being in the NHL is tied for third in goals (65) for a defensemen and ranks 19th in points (139) for a defensemen. For Werenski who is one of the NHL’s best defensive players his pay raise will now reflect both market value for a player of his stature and his value to the Blue Jackets organization.
This is exactly what the Columbus Blue Jackets have needed to do. To hand out a massive contract to a player approaching the prime of their career and end players leaving for seemingly greener pastures elsewhere is excellent news.
This shows players around the league and the Blue Jackets fan base that enough is enough. The organization is now ready to lock up players which is more inviting to free agents and to the current roster members.
This seems to be a new era of Blue Jackets hockey one with a focus on keeping talent.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been a scrappy bunch. An every player chips in and win games together kind of team. Great! But not since the days of Rick Nash have the Blue Jackets had an impact player like Patrik Laine. In Laine, the Blue Jackets have a single player who can take over games even if it did not show during last seasons poor performance. Laine, agreed to a qualifying offer and will make $7.5 million next season. What happens next appears to be up to him.
When the curtain closes on the 2021-22 NHL season Patrik Laine will once again be a RFA (restricted free agent.) That simply means the Columbus Blue Jackets hold his rights.
Laine struggled like just about all of the Blue Jacket players this past season. Yet, if there is anyone poised for a comeback it is the gifted Finnish scorer. Laine knows it and so does the Blue Jackets front office. This is where it gets interesting.
The fact that both player and franchise are on the same page is huge. Both agree Laine can and will be better. Both sides are willing to negotiate a long term deal. Laine has said and continues to say he wants to be in Columbus and chipped in “I already got traded.”
This is my opinion on the situation. The Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen hold the cards. If Laine rebounds as many NHL and hockey experts believe he will the Blue Jackets could trade him for more assets as the team is in rebuild mode.
The smarter choice for Columbus, again in my opinion would be to sign Laine to a long-term deal and build around him. With the NHL’s best draft last weekend the Blue Jackets now have prospects who can feed the puck to Laine and allow him to do what he does best, score goals.
A one year qualifying offer is basically a “prove it” deal. There is little doubt Patrik Laine will prove it.
A new era of Columbus Blue Jackets hockey is coming. That is the good news. The bad news it is not going to happen overnight. Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen who just oversaw a very good draft by the organization has given the franchise a jump start on this new era. So why was this the right thing to do? Let’s dive in.
After a four year playoff stretch that saw the Columbus Blue Jackets lead by then head coach John Tortorella, sweep the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019, the Blue Jackets began the decent that made the timing for a new era both needed and warranted.
As cornerstone players to the four years of playoff hockey have been traded off for a couple players and more importantly draft assets (picks,) Kekalainen all but ripped the band aid off and tore the foundation of his team down to the studs.
The moves that sent ripples across Columbus as fans wondered what in the world was going on is absolutely justifiable. I say that because making the hard moves shows the Kekalainen was not going to stand pat and allow his team to sink so low with nothing in the minor leagues which would have been a nightmare. As a rebuild would have taken much longer.
Take the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals respectfully. Both teams have enjoyed prolonged success and have won Stanley Cup’s. Winning comes at a cost. It always does. The Penguins and Capitals now have aging rosters full of bloated nearly untradeable contracts.
As both the Penguins and Capitals window for winning is closing both franchises are set to endure long and painful rebuilds. One that it seems Jarmo Kekalainen wanted to avoid.
While new era’s take time to take hold, the 2021 NHL Draft proved a launching pad for the Columbus Blue Jackets who were widely viewed as the draft weekend winners.
The players selected will be part of the next wave of playoff hockey in Columbus. Which thanks to shrewd moves by Kekalainen has been sped up.