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How Are Blue Jacket's GM Jarmo Kekalainen's Gigantic Balls Feeling Right About Now?

When the Blue Jackets went all in at the Trade Deadline, there was definitely a mixed reaction. They are a smaller market team that is consistently fighting for a place amongst the titans of the Metro Division like Pittsburgh and Washington. Sometimes you get tired of waiting and at this year’s day of dealing, instead of playing it conservative, GM Jarmo Kekalainen decided he was in the mood for some commerce.

They spent a majority of their assets for the near future on Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid, and Keith Kinkaid.

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It left them with almost NOTHING to work with as far as drafting for the next few years.

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If you’re their Scouting Director, you’d have to be pretty sad looking at your ammo for the first three rounds of these next few drafts.
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As if that wasn’t enough, Kekalainen decided he wasn’t going to move Artemi Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky. The two highly skilled Russians are integral to this team as the leading scorer and starting goalie, but have been thought to be almost surely moving on to bigger markets for enormous free agent deals this summer. They would have been worth a shitload of picks and prospects to other contenders, but he turned down the opportunity to keep them for the rest of the season. There were a lot of people who thought this was a stupid move and that he should have gotten as many assets as possible for guys on their way out the door, but the BJ’s GM didn’t budge.

In this era of “Trust The Process”-ing and fans supporting multi season tank jobs that many times don’t pay off (cough cough OILERS!), it was a refreshing change of pace. A guy looking at his situation and saying “what the hell are we really trying to do here?”

Read this quote again!

Jarmo’s chips were ALL THE WAY in.

And what happened from there? Well not only did they fail to charge to the top of the Metro standings, but they actually sputtered pretty bad for the first stretch after the trade deadline. Everyone was going nuts about the possibility of them missing the playoffs after mortgaging their future on this team. They were in and out of the last Wild Card spot for a while before clinching with a shootout win against the Rangers on the last Friday of the season. I blogged about it here.

It didn’t stop there! Not only did they evade disaster by making the playoffs, they now own one of the most improbable, historic upsets ever. When you have never even won a playoff series in franchise, a sweep like this has to feel like a ton of progress. They’ve gotten over the hurdle and now are gunning for more. They’ll have the next week or so to rest before battling the winner of Boston/Toronto which will likely be entering the rink on crutches after beating the living shit out of eachother for 7 games.

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Duchene said

“I don’t recall seeing a GM and an organization saying we’re all-in quite like this before, let’s worry about now and ask questions later, with the number of UFAs we have,” Duchene said before the playoffs. “But the cool part is, as players, it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for a job next year, or a guy who’s signing a long-term deal for a lot of money, we’re all living for the now. And what we have right now is a really good chance.”

I can’t even imagine walking around this week being Jarmo. He gambled and won and now gets to sit and watch while everyone is buzzing. The entire city of Columbus’s mood can be summed up in John Tortorella’s face here:

More than anything, I’m just so excited for Captain Blue Jacket!
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