Friedman: Blue Jackets GM chase begins | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaFriedman: Blue Jackets GM chase begins

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | 11:32 PM

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Scott Howson was fired as general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. (John Grieshop/Getty Images) Scott Howson was fired as general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. (John Grieshop/Getty Images)

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This is a brutal business sometimes. Columbus gets its biggest win of the season, 6-2 over San Jose, and Scott Howson is fired the next day. Now, the search for his successor begins.
This is a brutal business sometimes. Columbus gets its biggest win of the season, 6-2 over San Jose, and Scott Howson is fired the next day. 

It's not unprecedented -- Guy Carbonneau was fired as Canadiens head coach after a win in Dallas.

The Blue Jackets have three first-round picks in the deep 2013 NHL Draft, owning the Kings' and Rangers' selections in addition to their own. That's why the early betting line favours former Ottawa and St. Louis executive Jarmo Kekalainen.

Kekalainen's draft history is strong. He joined the Senators in 1995, although he stayed in Finland for four years, doubling as GM of IFK Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League. His recommendations of Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat earned trust within the organization, and he was promoted to director of player personnel in 1999.

Kekalainen ran the draft until 2002. That's when Marshall Johnston retired as the team's GM. Kekalainen wanted that job, but it went to John Muckler. So he went to St. Louis as assistant GM and director of amateur scouting. 

With the Blues, he missed on Erik Johnson but otherwise snared several critical members of the franchise rebuild -- David Backes, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo. Again, however, he had designs on a GM job he did not get, as John Davidson chose Doug Armstrong to replace the retiring Larry Pleau.

Elusive job

At that point, Kekalainen decided to try something else in hopes of that elusive lead job. He went back to Finland to run the famed Jokerit club, hoping that kind of experience would help. Although under contract, he is believed to have an "out" clause if an NHL job is offered.

It is now apparent that Davidson considered a change for some time, but wanted to make certain a succession plan was in place before doing so. According to a couple of sources, San Jose granted him permission to speak to John Ferguson (the former Toronto GM), and that may have happened two months ago. 

There were several reports L.A.'s Ron Hextall was a candidate, which makes a lot of sense, but Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Columbus had not asked to speak to him. 

The other question is what "ripple effect" this will have on the rest of the NHL. Whenever there is a firing, especially the first of the season, other guys who think they're in trouble tend to wonder if it will set off a chain reaction.

Will some of them now feel pressure to make moves with their teams? We find out over the next few days, I guess.

But, for now, we wait to see if it's Kekalainen for Columbus.

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