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Kekalainen hire sends "a clear message"

by Staci Pawlak / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets took the ice today for an energetic practice merely an hour after President of Hockey Operations John Davidson announced that Jarmo Kekalainen would replace Scott Howson as general manager.

Davidson spoke to the team briefly before their practice at Nationwide Arena this morning to discuss the change and the expectations moving forward.

“He told us what the expectations are, but that’s nothing earth-shattering… to come and give it your best every day,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. “We know the organization is serious about doing whatever they can to try to help us win here.”

For many of the players, the change is bittersweet since contract moves made by Howson and his staff are the reason for being here in Columbus.

“Unfortunately, it’s a part of this business, but it’s never an easy decision to make,” Prospal said. “Here, this is a hard business, and [it’s] not where they’re from, [it’s] what they do, and how hard they work.”

Even still, Davidson spoke of a “changing culture,” and the phrase has been somewhat of a buzzword this season for the Blue Jackets. Many of the players and coaches see the move as another step in the process – and an opportunity to grow into the franchise everyone wants them to be.

“It’s a pretty clear message,” said head coach Todd Richards. “I’ve heard good things about Jarmo, I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to him getting here, sitting down, and spending some time [with him].”

RJ Umberger said bringing Kekalainen on board sends a message similar to the one they got when Davidson was hired in October: there is a standard in place and a commitment to excellence, and a new identity of the team will be forged one brick at a time.

“There’s been a message since day one that he has been here, so it’s another part of the process that he’s trying to change here,” Umberger said.

For the players, their focus remains on what happens on the ice, and they’re looking forward to building off the consistent efforts they’ve put together over the past couple of games, especially against San Jose.

“It’s up to us as players to play like we did over the weekend. That’s the kind of identity we’d like to have,” Umberger said.

“It gives me confidence, and hopefully, it gives the rest of the guys confidence, that maybe we’ve turned the corner,” said Richards. “Maybe there’s an identity that we’re starting to create, how we need to play and have success.”

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