I 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?