Blue Jackets fire general manager Jarmo Kekalainen


Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen looks on during the second day of the NHL hockey draft Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Jarmo Kekalainen, the first European-born general manager in the NHL, was fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday morning. His contract ran through the 2024-2025 season.

The former general manger was hired by the team in February 2013, and was the longest-tenured GM in Blue Jackets’ history. Columbus fired Kekalainen just ahead of NHL All-Star Weekend as the team owns the worst record (16-26-10) in the Eastern Conference.

John Davidson, the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations and interim GM, said the decision to part ways was one the hardest he’s had to make.

“This is one of the hardest days I have had in my career as Jarmo is a friend, someone I have a great deal of respect for and someone who has done a lot of good things during his time here,” Davidson said via ESPN. “While the future of our club is bright, our performance has not been good enough and it is time for a fresh perspective as we move forward.”

In addition to Davidson, the Blue Jackets’ hockey operations management team will work together on general manager duties until it fills the role.

This situation culminated from several factors. Beyond the record, Columbus has enjoyed effectively no postseason success under Kekalainen, as its won only one playoff series — a sweep of the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019 — in five appearances.

There was also the Mike Babcock disaster, after he was hired as the team’s new head coach. Just before training camp, Babcock resigned following accusations of violating players privacy by asking to see photos in their cellphones. This resulted in a National Hockey League Players’ Association investigation.

“Obviously, that was a mistake, and that responsibility is mine,” Kekalainen said then. “We understood the dynamics of hiring Mike before we did so and understand the criticism now that it didn’t work out the way we had planned.”

But more than anything, Kekalainen lost his job because the Blue Jackets didn’t improve or meet the goals set for the team in the offseason. And with no progress in sight, the 57 year old was relieved of his duties and his tenure ended.

“We had candid conversations with our leadership after last season about our goals and expectations for growth and progress on the ice in 2023-24. Those expectations are still in place and can still be achieved, so we do not anticipate further changes to our hockey leadership team at this time,” ownership said in a statement.



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