In a February club newsletter, the three-time AFL premiership coach dared to suggest that if the planets and stars aligned this season, the Blues could well be flag contenders.
But whatever stars there might be in Kernahan's eyes were dimmed by the trauma of last season.
The Blues bolted from the gate, with a 10-goal belting of arch-rivals Collingwood highlighting their 3-0 start.
Then the season unravelled and instead of watching his beloved Blues play in September, Kernahan was telling coach and long-time friend Brett Ratten he had been sacked.
"We finished 10th last year and I'm acutely aware it cost people their roles in this footy club," Kernahan says.
Forget a strong pre-season - all Kernahan really cares about is round one against Richmond.
"I'm loath to say how well it's going, because we're 0-0," Kernahan says.
Kernahan will admit he is rapt with how well Malthouse and Carlton have taken to each other.
But even then, he clearly adheres to Malthouse's observation that an AFL club is always only four straight losses away from crisis.
"Football can change in a week - we all know that - but it has been seamless from what I've seen," Kernahan says.
It is worth noting that Malthouse was also an outsider at the start of his previous three AFL coaching appointments.
He has no doubt learnt a thing or two about walking into a club where he knows a lot of people, at best, aren't sure about him.
When Malthouse mused about what might be possible this season, he pointed to three specific areas - player availability, game style and desire.
Certainly, injuries cruelled the Blues last year.
So often when each player was presented to the crowd at Carlton's pre-season family day, it was noted he had missed a sizeable chunk of the 2012 season.
New captain Marc Murphy, Andrew Carrazzo, Jarrad Waite, Jeremy Laidler and Robert Warnock were among the significant casualties.
In terms of game style, Murphy has noted a stronger emphasis on defence - no great surprise, given it has long been the bedrock of the Malthouse doctrine.
Malthouse has also challenged Bryce Gibbs to raise his game so he can emulate Collingwood star Scott Pendlebury.
The new coach has given Gibbs plenty of time in the midfield during the NAB Cup.
No Carlton player sparks more debate among Blues fans than the 2006 No.1 draft pick.
Equally, there are many queries about their tall players.
Is Waite durable enough? How to play ruckmen Warnock, Matthew Kreuzer and Shaun Hampson? Is Henderson a key defender or a utility? Is the excitement surrounding key forward Levi Casboult justified?
As for desire, surely that is a no-brainer given what happened to Carlton last season.
One of Malthouse's strengths has always been keeping the players onside.
To the media and public, he can appear a prickly and unlovable figure.
But how many Collingwood players have you heard speak ill of Malthouse since he left the club?
Carlton, the club that once defined "ruthless" in the AFL, made a brutal call last year that left a lasting impression on their president.
They also brought in the best coach available, who has demanded the Blues think big again.