Don't look now, the Blue Jackets are streaking

BY foxsports • December 8, 2014

The long climb out of the NHL cellar has begun. After losing streaks of nine and six games respectively, the Blue Jackets strung together three wins in a row. As of Monday morning, they sit 27th in the league with Buffalo (28), Carolina (29) and Edmonton (30) below them.

They are eight points behind the Washington Capitals and a guaranteed playoff position. Forget a Wild Card spot, as they are 11 points behind the Boston Bruins for 8th in the Eastern Conference. Their objective needs to be one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division.

And while many are salivating at the prospect of drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel next June, any thought of actively playing bad enough to get one of these two generational players has not entered the minds of the guys in the locker room.

The franchise turned a corner with the hiring of President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. His reputation as a player, Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster and front office manager preceded him. With him, the club gained respectability almost overnight. He brought in General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen, arguably one of the best with an eye to scouting amateur players. Kekalainen brought in his former business partner Bill Zito as an Assistant GM in August 2013.

They know there is no "quick fix" to a franchise that has the history of the Blue Jackets. A winning tradition is built over time. They are both on record as saying they won't mortgage the future for a bit of quick, yet ultimately unsustainable success. One caveat to this is that it has only been slightly over two years since Davidson took the reins of the Blue Jackets.

At the end of training camp this year, Blue Jackets Development Coach Chris Clark gave FOX Sports Ohio his thoughts on what the hiring of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen meant to the franchise.

"I think it's huge," Clark said. "I think with JD being in the organization it brings credibility and a voice to the organization. You can just hear his voice anywhere and you know who it is. He has the hockey background, obviously. He has the business background, as well. He's been great with the on-ice and the off-ice, just everything to do with Columbus."

He continued with his thoughts on Kekalainen, "And Jarmo, with his scouting background and knowing how to find talent, he knows how to educate myself and the other scouts with what we should be looking for (in players). He's a great communicator."

While the drafting of McDavid or Eichel would help immensely, the level of experience that occupies the front office presently will perform due diligence on any player they bring into the organization. Kekalainen has an almost Marv Levy-like quality of finding players that many others would overlook.

Notwithstanding the way this season has unfolded, the future is indeed very bright in Columbus. From the prospects that are already in the pipeline to the ones that have yet to be found, the payoff is on the horizon. As most everyone wants to win right now, patience is the prudent course to take. All the while having trust in the people making the decisions for the betterment of the club.

"Our scouts do a lot of work," said Clark. "They are on the road all the time. It all depends on where a player falls in the draft order. They have specific needs and wants. A lot of that has to do with not just their on-ice talent, but they do background on these kids.

"Especially if it's a first round pick, you're going to invest a lot of money in him. They do the background on if he's a good kid, because we, as an organization, don't want guys that are going to be disruptive later on in their careers. They'll do the background on schools, teachers, girlfriends... they'll find someone to talk to and get a character assessment on these guys. They definitely do their homework."

So, with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel being dangled tantalizingly close, there is no substitute for doing the hard work necessary to build the franchise the right way. It begins with the players on the roster currently. Play the right way and playing their game will get them to where they want to go.

To their way of thinking, the words of the great Yogi Berra from July 1973 ring true and resonate within the walls of the locker room. "It ain't over till it's over."


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