Columbus Blue Jackets are GM Scott Howson's team now, for better or worse

howson.jpgI still think that the Columbus Blue Jackets made a mistake when they fired Ken Hitchcock last season. He was a rare beacon of hockey competence in an organization that rarely – if ever – did things correctly in their puck pursuits. Just take a look at the severe deficit in talent on their roster; I’m actually in the “Rick Nash is overpaid” camp but what choice did Columbus have? He’s really the only player they drafted who could be mistaken for an elite forward.

Going forward, this club has the fingerprints of newly-minted GM Scott Howson all over it (for better or worse). The Columbus Dispatch depicts just how extensive the house cleaning has been.

To say Howson has made sweeping changes within Nationwide Arena would be an understatement.

Every player in the Blue Jackets dressing room this season will fit one of the following criteria: he either was drafted, acquired in a trade, signed to a contract or contract extension by Howson.

Only three players who played as Blue Jackets in 2006-07 – Rick Nash, Rostislav Klesla and Marc Methot – are still with the organization.

Further, late last season, Howson fired the coach he acquired upon his hiring – Ken Hitchcock – and replaced him with his own choice, Scott Arniel.

His players. His coaches. His cross to bear if the Blue Jackets flop again in 2010-11.

Hiring Arniel is really the only noteworthy move Howson made this summer, unless you count claiming fledgling, heart-and-soul forward Ethan Moreau off of waivers as significant.*

* – It’s not significant.

While Howson claims that he wouldn’t take back the contracts he handed to Mike Commodore and Kristian Huselius, I can’t say that there are many deals on that roster that scream “great value.” I wonder if Blue Jackets fans are a little nervous about another season of journeyman backup Mathieu Garon and sophomore slump victim Steve Mason being their two netminders. This summer could have been a golden opportunity for the team to improve itself in net; instead they’ll stick with their below-adequate goalies.

Perhaps it’s all about staying on budget, but the Blue Jackets stood pat while the rest of the Central division went through major changes. That seems like an odd track for such an unsuccessful team to follow, but I guess Howson’s tying his hopes to Arniel being this year’s Dave Tippett.

How do you think Howson is doing? What are the chances of him turning the team around?

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    Lightning strikes: Bolts even series with Islanders

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    Tyler Johnson began the playoffs as a game-time decision for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their series with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s now among the top point producers this post-season.

    Needing a win to even the series before it shifts north to Brooklyn, the Lightning earned a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Series tied, 1-1. As for Johnson, the diminutive but skilled forward, he led the Bolts with a three-point night and is up to 10 points in the playoffs.

    He opened the scoring versus the Islanders and finished it with an empty-netter to negate any late comeback attempt.

    Still without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning got another strong game from Jonathan Drouin, who entered this series without a goal. But he changed that, giving the host team a two-goal lead in the opening period of Game 2. That goal would be the eventual winner.

    Corey Perry: ‘I take a lot of blame for what happened’ after Ducks bounced in first round

    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 11:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 and Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks watch from the bench during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on April 11, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    After a first-round playoff loss that resulted in the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, players were forced to answer for such a disappointing end to the Anaheim Ducks’ season.

    The Ducks were last in the West at the holiday break but went flying up the standings in the second half of the season, claiming the Pacific Division. But they couldn’t close out the Nashville Predators in the opening round, despite a 3-2 series lead, and Boudreau was sent packing.

    Ducks GM Bob Murray then let the players have it, blasting the core group and their performance, especially in the first two games of the series, and strongly suggesting there would be some big changes in Anaheim leading up to next season.

    “I take a lot of blame for what happened,” said Corey Perry, as per the Ducks’ website. “I didn’t score a goal. I take a lot of responsibility. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform.”

    In seven games, the 30-year-old Perry, who just concluded the third year of an eight-year contract with a cap hit of $8.625 million, had four assists. But, as he said, no goals.

    On Boudreau’s dismissal, Perry added: “He did a lot for my game. It’s tough when you know the reason somebody got fired is because we as a team and as individuals didn’t perform to where we needed to perform, and that’s the hardest thing. You lose four Game 7s at home, and he has nothing really do with what we did on the ice. We’re performing, we’re playing and we have to hold ourselves accountable. And I think a lot of guys are doing that.”

     

    Marquette, Michigan is your Kraft Hockeyville 2016 winner

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    Huge congrats to the community of Marquette, MI and the Lakeview Arena — after an exciting voting process, Marquette has been named the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville 2016 competition.

    As a result, Lakeview will receive $150,000 in arena upgrades, and will host an Oct. 4 preseason game broadcast on NBCSN between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes.

    More, from the NHL:

    Marquette is rich in hockey heritage and Lakeview Arena stands as a pillar of the community, stimulating the local economy since it opened in 1973. Lakeview Arena’s semi-pro Marquette Iron Rangers signed the first female professional hockey player in North American history, Karen Koch.

    Lakeview Arena will prioritize energy efficiency updates with the grand prize money in addition to other arena upgrades to ensure future generations of Marquette players are able to enjoy skating at Lakeview Arena for years to come.

    “We’ve seen amazing participation across the country in Kraft Hockeyville USA’s second year,” said Nina Barton, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kraft Heinz. “This year’s contest led to millions of votes from passionate hockey fans, and we’re so proud America has chosen the spirited, well-deserving community of Marquette as Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016.”

    Marquette was just one of more than a thousand communities across the country that submitted stories showing their hockey spirit and passion.

    The runner-up, Rushmore Thunderdome of Rapid City, S.D., will receive $75,000 to use toward arena upgrades.

    For more on this year’s Kraft Hockeyville competition, click here.

    2016 Lady Byng finalists: Barkov, Eriksson and Kopitar

    Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar, left, and Sweden forward Loui Eriksson battle for the puck in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.

    OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    Same difference, eh?

    Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.

    You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.

    It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.