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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    Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

    Mike Condon, John Moore,
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    If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

    The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

    After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

    If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

    Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

    Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

    Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

    If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

    “Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

    The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

    Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

    With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

    Measuring stick stretch begins

    Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

    This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

    It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

    In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

    Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


    Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

    It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

    His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

    These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

    Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.

    Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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    Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

    Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

    It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

    Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.