Tuesday, 12 February 2013

That'll Be All

The era of Donald Scott Howson as Columbus' general manager officially ended this morning with the announcement being made this evening. Scott Howson was relieved of his duties with the Blue Jackets by President of Hockey Operations John Davidson after watching his team compile a 173-190-59 record under him. Granted, the Blue Jackets' only appearance in the playoffs came with Howson at the reins, but when you look down the list of "achievements" that Howson compiled, you have to wonder how he survived as long as he did. Howson will find another home in the NHL due to his abilities, but it probably won't be as the man directing the franchise's personnel choices.

"Scott Howson is a caring man who gave everything he had to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the past six years," John Davidson said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision but one that I thought was in the best interest of moving our hockey club forward. I have enjoyed working with Scott and want to thank him for his service."

Howson took over on June 15, 2007 and put together a few good years after Doug MacLean ran the team into the ground. The loss to Detroit in the playoffs in 2008-09 was certainly a highlight despite the early exit from the playoffs, but there were some difficult times that he faced with players he needed to perform. Jeff Carter, Rick Nash, and Adam Foote were all thought to be major building blocks for the Blue Jackets, and none of the three men are wearing Columbus colors any longer.

If there is one thing that Howson seemingly has done after being let go is that he has set the next general manager of the Blue Jackets up for some success. He doesn't leave a legitimate superstar in town and the goaltending is still questionable at best, but there are some good, young players currently on the Blue Jackets roster and in the system. If youth is the building block for the next dominant franchise, the Blue Jackets appear to have a bright future.

Brandon Dubinsky was a great player for the Rangers and is still finding his groove in Columbus. RJ Umberger is loved in Ohio, and his contributions on the ice can't be overlooked. Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason are still young and learning their trade at the NHL level, so there is hope that one of these two young goalies can find their way to dominating. Artem Anisimov looks like he is settling in nicely for Columbus, and should produce if given the chance. Factor in young players like Boone Jenner, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Tim Erixon, and Ryan Johansen give the Blue Jacket a lot of talent coming up.

The one major blemish on Howson's record, however, is his handling of his stars. The Rick Nash sweepstakes became the Rick Nash reclamation project as Nash's public demand of a trade nearly destroyed any return for the superstar in a trade. His handling of the Jeff Carter situation is arguably better, but Carter seemingly never fit with linemates or the franchise.

"We were excited and had high expectations when we acquired Jeff Carter, but we just couldn't find the right fit for him here," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said after trading him to Los Angeles.

The one thing that Howson should be given credit for is his draft setup. The Jackets have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, so that deep crop of youthful talent will only get deeper. With a draft that looks like there will be a number of solid players in it, the Blue Jackets could grab a couple of blue-chippers and really set themselves ahead of the curve if things play out right.

I'm not surprised that Howson was relieved as his six seasons only saw him get out of the bottom-third of the NHL once. He used his six years at the helm to restock the Blue Jackets' system, but the NHL club has yet to see the fruits of his work. There's a sense that things could play out within a coupe of years, but a decade of rebuilding is asking a lot of your fans.

"Sometimes change is necessary," Davidson said regarding Howson's dismissal. "It's just necessary. When you make changes, for whatever the reason you make them, it can be tough on some people."

Not as tough, however, as watching your NHL team flounder for so long.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Dr. Pete said...

The main problem with Howson is one that has plagued Columbus since the beginning of their existence: their inability to find and develop young talent through the draft. One stat that stuck out: of the five players who have scored at least 100 points after being drafted by the Blue Jackets, none of those players were drafted after the first round.

That isn't to say Howson didn't do some good things, as he traded an injury prone goalie in Pascal Leclaire for Antoine Vermette and traded for potential cornerstone defenseman in Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter. However, the negatives far outweighed the positives, and that is reflected in the team's record in his tenure as general manager.