EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment of a two-part conversation with Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson in advance of this year’s NHL Draft, to be held June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Rob Mixer of BlueJackets.com sat down with JD to cover a variety of topics, including draft strategy, free agency and more.
BLUEJACKETS.COM: A lot has happened in the seven-plus months since you took the job, and since Jarmo Kekalainen came on board in February. Do you feel good about what you’ve been able to put in place to this point and the ground work you’ve laid for the coming months?
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DAVIDSON: We feel good, we do. We feel that there’s a real strong sense of culture here that has to be positive and what we’re all about. We realize that we achieved some things last season, but we also realize that it’s just a stepping stone to becoming a better hockey club. The other thing is, during the off-season it’s not just the “off” season, if you will. You’re not playing games, but it’s the part of the year when you have to improve.
We’ll continue to do that whether it’s the players working out, the management trying to find better players and getting ready for the draft. Whatever it is, that’s what we’ll be in the middle of.
BLUEJACKETS.COM: You had three first-round picks in the 2007 draft (held in Columbus) when you ran the St. Louis Blues, and I remember you talking about having options. Is having a multitude of options the biggest luxury of the position you’re in this year?
DAVIDSON: The biggest luxury is that you should get three really good players – that should be your biggest luxury at the worst. Anything better than that is just better; we have four picks out of the top 44 and we’re excited about that. With the options available to us, can we move up? It’s hard to move up, but it’s always possible depending on what kind of package you put together. We also have the luxury of going the other way, and moving our third (first-round pick) for two seconds if we were to do something like that.
Then, you have the option of moving any of those four picks, or any pick for that matter, for players who can help us immediately. It’s all there, it’s all an option and it’s going to be up to us to set the table. And if something comes our way that we feel strongly about, we’ll do it. We’ve gotten ourselves into a position where we’re prepared for that.
BLUEJACKETS.COM: When I talked with Jarmo a few weeks ago, he spoke about the importance of establishing trust with amateur scouting and how important that is for drafting and developing. How crucial is the “trust factor” when it comes to your staff, given you’re relatively new here?
DAVIDSON: Jarmo knows a lot of these scouts. When Jarmo left and went back to Europe (in 2010), a lot of these scouts we have were working already. Jarmo’s always in a position – as I am – of analyzing and you watch every part of your franchise. It could be amateur scouting, it could be pro scouting, it could be coaching or the trainers or the players.
It’s our job to be watching them all the time and make sure they’re getting the job done. You always look for links that may have to become stronger and that’s our job. We keep watching, all the time. That’s a never-ending part of the business.