"Which is a hardworking team," he said Thursday over the phone. "Right now we're trying to skill our way through it, and that’s not how we get success in this league. That's for sure."
The Jackets, picked by many to have a good season and to get back into the playoff picture, are off to a 0-4-0 start and have been outscored 20-9 in the process.
It has led to quick speculation about Todd Richards’ future as head coach. To which Kekalainen responded when asked about Richards:
"It's on everybody in the organization, all of us, we have to look in the mirror. It's the players on the ice that execute the system, and they have to get the job done. They have to get the work boots on and get back to our identity."
The Jackets held a team meeting Thursday, a day after a 7-3 drubbing at home to Ottawa.
"Yeah, any team would do the same in that situation; there’s a lot of studying to do, a lot of looking in the mirror to do for everybody," the Jackets GM said, confirming the team meeting. "You analyze, make your conclusions, move on and get to work."
Where the team needs work is in their defensive zone, where the Jackets are looking disorganized.
"But it's not all on our defense; if our forwards leave our zone too early, it's hard to get a pass to them," said Kekalainen. "We have to play as a five-man unit. I'm a big believer that any team can play defense if you just want to do it. ... If you buy in, and execute the system, and you’re disciplined and you want to work. You can play defense; you can shut down teams. We have enough skill to score goals if we first play defense. And we play a hard game, we're hard to play against. All those things that have been the Blue Jackets' identity for a while now, we’re getting away from that. We’re trying to be something else that we’re not. That’s costing us points."
Now is when you truly find out about your team, the Jackets GM said.
"These are the moments when you learn the most," said Kekalainen. "As hard as they are, as little fun as they are, these are the moments in my career where I’ve had the best learning lessons; you learn a lot about the players, you learn a lot about the people you work with in many different capacities. You find out about their character when you go through situations like this.
"You can get some valuable lessons from the hard times [you] go through."