Again we continue the trend of last year – we can’t really open this award to too many folks. Current Blue Jackets executives basically include John Davidson (JD) and Jarmo Kekalainen as both Craig Patrick and Scott Howson are no longer in the fold. But that doesn’t mean the team here at Union Blue can’t be creative. So without further ado, your Columbus Blue Jackets Executive of the year is….
Coaching, Columbus Blue Jackets, General Manager / No Comments
It’s pretty crazy to think about how much has changed since the Jackets last playoff appearance. Steve Mason was the savior. Rick Nash was the franchise. Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek were the future. RJ Umberger looked like a steal. Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda were a beloved shutdown pair. Ken Hitchcock was coaching them up. Scott Howson looked like a genius. Well Mason is the savior in Philadelphia. Nash is the franchise in New York. Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard are the present in New York and Philadelphia. Mike Commodore is somewhere. Jan Hejda is a beloved shutdown defender in Colorado. Ken Hitchcock is coaching up St. Lous. And if you are paying attention, Scott Howson actually still looks like a pretty good GM. Make no mistake, this is Howson’s team. He brought nearly every single player on this roster into the organization. The most prominent player expected to play in this series that was a Jarmo/JD pickup is probably Blake Comeau. Both goaltenders were Howson pickups. Seven of the eight defensemen who might see time were Howson pickups (Nick Schultz being the exception). Comeau, Jack Skille and Corey Tropp are the only Jarmo pickups at forward (plus the injured Nathan Horton). I’ve already dwelled on this more than I planned on, I just wanted to make sure it was out there that this team was built by Howson. Moving on.
The Pittsburgh Penguins. Funny how the Jackets first two playoff opponents have been Detroit and Pittsburgh. I know some fans are concerned about Pens fans taking over the building. Think back on that last playoff series, and remember the atmosphere. Nationwide was rocking with CBJ fans, and I expect the same this time around. If Detroit fans couldn’t overtake the rink, I don’t see how it should be much different this time. As for the on-ice product, I expect this to be a very close series. At even strength at least. The two teams are actually very close when it comes to 5v5 play. In shots for percentage, they rank 13th (Pittsburgh) and 14th (Columbus). In Fenwick Close, they rank 12th (Columbus) and 16th (Pittsburgh). In Corsi Close, they rank 13th (CBJ) and 16th (Pit). In goals for percentage, they rank 8th (Pit) and 12th (CBJ). On other words, the Jackets are slightly better at controlling the play, while the Penguins score a tiny bit more. Which makes sense, considering the talent they have, as Crosby, Malkin, and others have shown they (and their linemates) can consistently score on more of their shots than league average. But then again, the Jackets have Bobrovsky. Like I said, this should be a very close series at even strength. Pittsburgh has been quite a bit better on special teams than Columbus. So on the surface, the edge lies with the Penguins. Let’s look deeper, comparing the forwards, defense, goaltending, and special teams. And maybe we’ll see how the Jackets might be able to pull of the upset.
I tweaked the award a little here from GM of the Year to Executive of the Year. Essentially, this one came down to ranking the work of three men: current GM Jarmo Kekelainen, President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, and former GM Scott Howson. When I put this one out to the tUB team I was VERY interested to see how it panned out. And boy was I right. Some background on the process: each tUB member sends me their rankings with each nominee ranked from 1 to 3. The votes each get points: 3 points for a 1st place vote, 2 points for a 2nd, 1 point for a 3rd. Pretty straightforward. So for this award, we actually had a tie in points. An executive decision was made to use 1st place votes as the tiebreaker. So without further ado, your Columbus Blue Jackets Executive of the Year is…… Continue reading…
Around 8PM on Tuesday, Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson was relieved of his duties with the organization. Scott was with the organization since 2007 and his tenure was a rocky one to be sure. While tonight some will trumpet his firing as a success, I will simply point out that on a human level, tonight, an individual who I can personally attest to being a good person lost his job. He and his family will now face the unique challenges that come with that. His performance can certainly be critiqued – and arguably Howson just couldn’t come out on the winning end enough times to justify keeping him in a leadership role. Let’s look at some high and lowlights.
Columbus Blue Jackets, Contracts, Draft, General Manager, Prospects, Roster Talk, Team Discussion / 2 Comments
A lot of people have written a lot of things so far on the Blue Jackets’ hiring of John Davidson to be President of Hockey Operations. I’ll leave it to others to discuss how this impacts the fans, what is means to the city, etc. What I can talk about regarding this hire, is how it will impact the team directly.
The first place where Davidson will have a major impact is the culture of the organization. This is something that has been in flux for a while now, and with Rick Nash gone, Davidson can step into the void. He is a proven winner, a respected voice, and has a cult of personality that can dominate the spotlight without making it look like he is trying to dominate the spotlight. This allows the players to play, Howson to manage, and Richards to coach, without having to be in the public eye as much. When it comes to culture, Davidson’s Blues teams have always been workmanlike teams with a strong veteran presence. That should carry over to Columbus. He will not allow the ‘country club’ culture that has been persistent in the Jackets history to continue.
Davidson will also help greatly with the perception of Columbus around the league. Look at Sergei Kostitsyn’s comments the other day, Marc Crawford’s comments a few months ago, among many other quotes from people in the game of hockey regarding Columbus. It is incredibly tough to break out of that perception. But it can be done. No one in their right mind would argue that Columbus is a “gloomier” city to live in than Detroit. But Detroit has a reputation around the league as a first class organization and a winner, which trumps the depression that is actually living in Detroit. This is in spite of the fact that Detroit had a fifteen year stretch as the laughingstock of the league, picking up almost as many insulting nicknames (“Dead Wings”) as playoff appearances (two). They brought in respected veteran front office guy Jimmy Devellano from the New York Islanders dynasty, drafted Steve Yzerman (amongst others), and the rest is history. The hire of John Davidson is on par with the Wings hire of Devellano, and with some luck, Ryan Murray could be our Steve Yzerman (not in play, but in personality and impact to the organization). In any case, John Davidson is the first step towards changing the perception of Columbus as the “Island of Misfit Toys”.
In a more direct way, the Blue Jackets will benefit from the additional veteran voice in the decision making process. Columbus has long had one of the smaller front offices in the NHL, and one of the greenest. I have long liked their approach, but more experienced voices have been needed since Don Boyd and Bob Strum were let go last offseason. A veteran like Davidson has seen the ups and downs of many players over the course of his career, and that benefit of that experience is damn near incalculable when trying to properly assess player value. Along with Craig Patrick, Davidson provides the Blue Jackets front office with as much, or more, of this experience than most other franchises currently possess.
How are things? No, seriously. How are things? Saw you were in Columbus recently. It was pretty cool to see the training you’ve been doing. You look trim – fifteen pounds off your frame, eh? That’s impressive. You also sounded a bit more serious in your on-camera interview. No more cocking your head to the side, voice raised a bit. Great step forward.
I’ve always liked you, Mase. I watched your Calder year – I remember standing through entire games to watch you win. There is even a Mason Blue Jackets jersey in our household based on that year. But the last two years? Man, they have stung. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t put everything on you. You were rushed through the early years of your development after London, rewarded perhaps a bit too early with that big contract and have played behind some porous defenses sometimes with only 2-3 names from our opening night roster. And what makes it worse is that sometimes, even with all that, we see glimpses of the 2009 Mason. Two years ago, we ventured to DC to watch you take on the Caps. You stood so tall in goal that night – it was a sight to behold. And then last year, there were wins against Vancouver at Nationwide, and against Detroit – 31 saves! Sometimes, you’re so so good.
As hockey fans know, Rick Nash was traded yesterday from the Blue Jackets. The trade officially brought the Nash era to an end in Columbus; however, since the original announcement that a trade was asked for in February, we’ve watched the slow removal of Nash from the franchise. It was subtle – no more Nash on the official website, his voice no longer implored us to follow the team during radio advertisements, #61 didn’t loom large over Nationwide Arena or the Columbus Airport. By the time Nash was officially “gone”, it seemed like he’d been gone for a long time. But this was Rick’s way. Quiet, under the radar. It was Rick’s blessing and curse:
After months of anticipation, a Rick Nash trade was finally completed by Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson. What was shaping up to be another standard Monday turned into a guessing frenzy as parts of the deal began to form on social media outlets. As is common on Twitter, frustration mounted as parts of the were shared over the course of the next half hour, thanks mostly to Darren Dreger of TSN (and his inability to convince his Blackberry to type ‘4’ instead of ‘s’). While the trade did not generate the ‘crazy high return’ everyone seemed to be expecting, the results of the trade were very much fair market value for Nash. It provided Columbus with the necessary pieces to continue the reshape of the team throughout the roster, along with a highly touted prospect.
The deal was as follows:
To Columbus: Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Artem Anisimov, and a 1st round pick (2013)
To New York: Rick Nash, Steven Delisle, and a conditional 3rd round pick (2013)
Many of our esteemed blogger colleagues have already ruminated long and poetic on the many complexities of the pending Rick Nash trade. What has been interesting to watch is the changing perspectives on this scenario from the non-CBJ affiliated fans and media. The headlines have long been “Rick Nash Deserves Better than Columbus”, “Trade Rick Nash”, “Rick Nash is Held Back by Everything in Blue Jackets Land”. But, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a new story line… “the price is too high”, “Nash isn’t that good”, “Nash is overpaid”.
Many Blue Jackets fans – even those who have long demanded Nash’s ouster – have seen this as a rallying cry. How dare we consider Nash to be less than the All-Star we’ve long heard him to be. However, battered as we are by last season, doubt has started to creep in and now, people are considering the possibility that Nash stays in Columbus. Maybe he just wasn’t that good after all, maybe we can’t get anything of value back.
So let’s strip the fandom, and the record, of our team away for a second and consider this situation. And let’s be careful to consider what has been shared as fact versus conjecture. What do we know?
- Rick Nash has approached CBJ leadership about being traded for the purpose of “bettering the team”
- Rick Nash has an NTC/NMC in his current contract and has submitted a list of teams for which he would waive said clause
- Offers have been made & teams have expressed interest
- Scott Howson will stand by his pre-determined standard for what is acceptable return for Rick Nash
- The Blue Jackets organization has an almost historic reputation for being tight-lipped about any movements and has often been known to zig when everyone is expecting the zag
The build up is rarely worth the wait. Every June I get ready for free agency, with dozens of players on my ‘want’ list, and probably just as many on my ‘stay away’ list. The options are endless and I would be foolish to suggest that I am on target with too many of my suggestions, but it’s in my nature to constantly consider the possibilities.
The biggest fear I had was the level of success on acquiring players. I still have plenty of confidence in Scott Howson, but I question the players looking at Columbus as a quality place for playing hockey. They are in the early stages of a rebuild that includes a new identity, and many guys seem to be focused on finding a competitive team, along with their payday.
The clock strikes noon, and all is quiet. With heads turned towards Parise and Suter, I sat patiently on the patio refreshing my phone, hoping for something. It took a couple of hours, but finally, after months of preparation, the first chip fell;