Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wherein DBJ scratches his head at Jarmo's trade deadline presser

That's the post-2014 NHL Trade Deadline press conference with Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.

Was that not one of the odder media events you've ever watched?  Aside from Scott Arniel telling Lori Schmidt to "keep piling on," granted, but I digress.

This presser had an odd tone, punctuated by some strange language.  I mean:

1. "Protecting the future of the franchise" - A term used at least three times in the presser, something obviously prepared.  What a grim statement, and what a strange way to justify trading Marian Gaborik for a salvage project and a couple of picks.

Not that I was in favor of keeping Gaborik around, but what about NOT trading him would make Jarmo Kekalainen fear for the future of the Blue Jackets?

Was the roughly $2 million (20 games on a $7.5 million annualized salary cap hit) that Gaborik was due going to force McConnell to close the doors and ship the team off to Quebec or Seattle?  If that's the case, should Mayor Coleman give Jarmo the key to the City for trading Gaborik and thus "protecting the future of the franchise" in Columbus?

Jarmo used that phrase in the context of something like "We have a young roster."  And then he said that he had to "protect the future of the franchise."  Did anyone else conjure images of a child endangerment situation?  "We had to trade Gaborik to protect the kids - from him."  (Before you freak out, I made up that italicized quote.  Jarmo did not say that.)

More seriously, was Gaborik's presence a distraction for the youngsters?  If that's the case, why not say it?  He already all but said that Gaborik was a mobile injured reserve unit who couldn't play a physical game...why not go all the way and say, "I need my young players to stick with the Blue Jackets system.  Gaborik couldn't."?

Gaborik was a bad fit.  More accurately, he couldn't stay healthy long enough to find out if he could become a good fit.  It happens.  Admit it, shrug your shoulders, say you got what you could and move along.  But implying that holding onto the guy for another 20 games jeopardized "the future of the franchise" bordered on theater of the absurd.

Really bad choice of words.  I really wish one of the reporters at the presser asked him what he meant by that.

2. Did Jarmo Kekalainen apologize for trading for Marian Gaborik?  Did I hear that?  Did he take responsibility for a "failed" (my word) trade?  What?

We all knew what Gaborik was to the Blue Jackets.  He was 12 games in the lockout season, and one season after that (this season).  After that, he was an unrestricted free agent.  He came to Columbus because A. He couldn't stand another minute with John Tortorella and B. He was willing to gamble that Columbus would be palatable for a year and a half.  If he liked it, he might stick around.  If not, it's a year and a half.

What Kekalainen didn't - and likely couldn't - do was put last season's trade for Gaborik in proper perspective.  That trade was a dump for both sides.  Gaborik was a $7.5 million lodestone on the New York Rangers.  Kekalainen had a locker room filled with coach-killers (remember, that core had gone through four head coaches in two years), and he had to empty it right quick if he was going to bring this know, the one whose future he has sworn to any semblance of NHL respectability.  Hence, the swap: Gaborik for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore.  Throw in the Steve Mason trade, and Jarmo essentially did what he had to do in just one day.

Let's be clear: If Gaborik actually became anything for Columbus, that would have been gravy.  The important thing was that the Hitchcock Holdovers stranglehold on the Blue Jackets' locker room was broken.

Jarmo should NEVER apologize for that trade.  He should never "take responsibility" as if it was a failure.  It wasn't anything close to a failure.

Heck, it was that trade - not today's trade with LA - that "protected the future of the franchise."

3. The whole downbeat tone of the presser.  Why?  Was it necessary?

OK, so Gaborik got moved.  That means that the roster that rampaged through late December and January - without Gaborik - is back in the saddle.  Is that bad?

He got a rental defenseman in Nick Schultz to backfill against the injuries to Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray.  It only cost him a fifth round pick.  Again, is that bad?

This was not a bad trade deadline day.  Was it a "launch the fireworks" type of day?  No.  Was it a "let's all pay our respects at the wake" day?  No.  It was just a general manager, doing what he gets paid to do.  A business as usual day.

I'm not a huge fan of Jarmo Kekalainen.  I haven't guzzled the "In Jarmo We Trust" kool aid.  At the same time, I respect his work thus far.  I think that, by and large, his moves have been filled with common sense.  He's been a decent caretaker, in the "first, do no harm" mode.

However, I have not been blown away by his wizardry.  I still think Kekalainen has yet to put his true stamp on the Blue Jackets.  Maybe his unrealized hope for Gaborik was such an effort, and maybe that's why he was so downbeat today.  Thing is, he wasn't here when it was truly bad.  I would hope that he respects the magnitude of what he did at the 2013 trade deadline and puts today's trade in proper perspective.

Ah well.  As I type, the CBJ are in 4th in the Metropolitan Division - 1 point out of 3rd and 3 points out of 2nd.  And - get this - the Blue Jackets currently are sitting in the last wild card playoff spot.

Kekalainen didn't dismantle the team that got to that point today, so let's continue the March to the Playoffs.


  1. My thought on the 'protecting the future of the franchise' -- when Jarmo used those words I took it to mean he was setting the standard by which future transactions/contracts would be dealt with - not that it was to protect the team (i.e. roster, players, etc.). So, instead of letting a contract expire and getting nothing of value in return; he goes out and gets what he can for that contract (another asset for the future). Sure, the wording was a bit over the top but I don't think it had anything to do with Gaborik the player - more to do with Gaborik the contract.

  2. Additional thought on 'protecting the future of the franchise'. LA Kings or another team may have offered the rumored "blockbuster deal", which probably involved a lot of the young roster. But Jarmo settled for the conservative trade with Gaborik and picks.

  3. what about the minor league deal with JAM and Dalton Smith? why exactly did that happen?


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