Blue Jackets expected to hire former Hurricanes executive

blue jackets expected to hire former hurricanes executive

Don Waddell.

After a search that has lasted more than three months, it appears that the Blue Jackets have zeroed in on their executive of choice to take over the front office.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reports that Don Waddell is their choice to take over the top job in hockey operations. No agreement is in place as of yet, with LeBrun suggesting that if all goes well, an announcement could be made next week.

The timing of this report doesn’t come as much surprise with Waddell having resigned from Carolina on Friday, less than 24 hours after reports emerged that he had been granted permission to speak to other teams. Generally speaking, you don’t make that type of move without having another job in place, and the vacancy in Columbus is the only one in the league, so it makes sense that they’re expected to reach an agreement.

Assuming everything goes well and the contract is finalized, Waddell will be tasked with reshaping a Columbus franchise that hasn’t had much success in recent years under former GM Jarmo Kekalainen.

The Blue Jackets have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons, entering an unplanned rebuild in the process. Kekalainen attempted to accelerate that with the additions of Johnny Gaudreau, Ivan Provorov, and Damon Severson in the last couple of years but Columbus wound up finishing last in the Metropolitan Division each time with the team struggling considerably in all three facets: offense, defense and goaltending.

However, they do have a quality young core group to work with. Up front, Adam Fantilli, Kent Johnson, Dmitri Voronkov, Kirill Marchenko, Owen Sillinger, and Yegor Chinakhov have all has some success in the NHL already and are aged 23 or younger.

On the back end, David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk give them some quality options to work within what has become somewhat of a veteran defensive group. They’ll also add a key piece of the future next month with the fourth-overall selection.

That’s certainly a solid foundation to try to build off of.

One of the first decisions that Waddell will need to make when the hire is made official is on the fate of the coaching staff. The Blue Jackets have technically gone through four head coaches in the last four years with Pascal Vincent taking on the job late in the offseason before Mike Babcock had even coached a single game.

Will Waddell want to bring in his own choice and make it five bench bosses in five years or will he let Vincent, who is entering the final year of his contract, stick around?

Assuming this hire is made official, it will be a significant change of direction for what Columbus has previously done in management. Its previous three general managers in franchise history — Doug MacLean, Scott Howson and Kekalainen — were all first-time hires.

That certainly isn’t the case with Waddell, who has 18 years of GM experience — a dozen with Atlanta and six with Carolina — on top of holding other senior titles as well. There shouldn’t be any sort of learning curve for him as there was for the others.

In his resignation from Carolina, Waddell indicated that the time had come to move on to the next chapter of his career. That next chapter will be another Metropolitan Division team, with Waddell having some work to do to get the Blue Jackets back on track.

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