Now, in the middle of a three-game losing streak that's resulted in the Blue Jackets falling out of a playoff spot, Kekalainen feels that the team he assembled to make a deep run this spring lacks cohesion.
"We have to start playing like a team," Kekalainen said, according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline. "Right now, we're looking like a group of individuals who are pulling in different directions. We don't look like a team."
Columbus has won just five contests since the trade deadline, scoring a measly 2.08 goals per game.
Since the Blue Jackets' big deadline moves, new acquisition Matt Duchene has delivered three goals and six points in 15 games and Panarin - Columbus' leader in points this season - has just one goal during that span, leaving Kekalainen to question his team's sense of accountability.
"Are you able to look each other in the eye and know you've done your job," Kekalainen said. "When you're doing your job, you can demand the same of everybody else. That's called professional pride."
The GM also insisted that he still supports head coach John Tortorella and rejected the idea that he may be let go before the season ends.
"That's just silly," Kekalainen said. "Torts has been our coach for a long time, been a good coach for us. He's coached us into the playoffs twice in a row. He's a very experienced coach in this league."
The Blue Jackets will look to avoid being swept on their Western Canadian road trip as they close it out in Vancouver versus the Canucks on Sunday night.