Tag: Mike Priest

Nashville Predators v Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets fans are going to protest and demand firings


You knew it had to happen eventually.

With how bad the Blue Jackets have been this season and the lack of forward progress they’ve seen in spite of firing former coach Scott Arniel, some Columbus fans have just about had it. Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace finds out that some Blue Jackets fans are going to protest the team to try and make change happen.

On Saturday, as the NHL stands down for the All-Star break, some Jackets fans are planning to gather in front of Nationwide to demand the ouster of team president Mike Priest and general manager Scott Howson. The summons first went out on the web on Monday night — right after the Jackets staggered through a 4-1 loss at Nashville.

We’ve seen protests in Montreal against the hiring of Randy Cunneyworth but protesting a team for failing to get things right in a city desperate to root for a winner seems like a nobler effort. In Columbus where the team has made the playoffs once in team history and the team is perpetually losing money, wanting to see the people in charge ousted makes a world of sense.

The other side of this, however, is whether or not the fans can help make the message crystal clear that they demand better.

Really? The Jackets are planning to keep Howson?

2010 NHL Draft - Round One

Flying somewhat under the radar this weekend (which is to say, we totally missed this) was a report by the Columbus Dispatch that suggested Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson — along with team president Mike Priest — won’t be fired after the team’s miserable season is over.

Judging by the whispers and hints coming out of the Blue Jackets’ owners meeting last week, club president Mike Priest and general manager Scott Howson are secure in their jobs, even though the Jackets, with the highest payroll in franchise history, will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for a third straight season.

Priest and Howson are said to have sold the ownership group on a plan that includes potentially significant changes before the 2012-13 season, but not the front-office and roster overhaul many within the organization and around the NHL believe is needed to simply get the franchise on par with the rest of the league.

Did you hear that, Jackets fans? “Potentially significant changes” are coming.

Frankly, I’m shocked ownership would consider bringing Howson back. I mean, it’s not like he just got the job – he’s been the GM in Columbus since 2007.

Howson’s decision to roll the dice with goalie Steve Mason after a summer spent adding millions and millions to the payroll was absolutely horrendous. Drafting Nikita Filatov was bad as well. Ditto for signing Mike Commodore to a big contract, eventually having to buy the defenseman out.

More from the Dispatch:

Don’t be surprised if [Jeff] Carter — ballyhooed as the long-awaited No. 1 center just six months ago — is sent packing to one of the many clubs in the NHL who are looking for a top-six forward.

Carter and [Rick] Nash have never shown signs of enhancing each other’s games, and although Carter has said all the right things about wanting to make it work in Columbus, his body language on the ice has been something different.

It’s hard to blame Howson for going after a top-line center like Carter to play with Nash. However, if Carter is traded prior to the deadline and the Jackets don’t land something comparable to what they gave up to the Flyers, it’s another big blunder to add to Howson’s resume.

Columbus hires Hockey Hall of Famer Craig Patrick

Craig Patrick

Big news out of Ohio today as the Blue Jackets announced they’ve hired former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Craig Patrick as a senior advisor. Patrick, 65, will be responsible for advising GM Scott Howson on trades, free agent signings, as well as evaluating Blue Jackets prospects.

“I am very pleased to add Craig to our organization,” said Howson. “He possesses a wealth of experience, having won two Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals, including gold with Team USA in 1980. His insight and knowledge will be invaluable to the Blue Jackets.”

Howson then mopped sweat off his brow and lit a cigarette. When asked what was wrong, he replied “What do you mean? Who said anything is wrong? NO, YOU’RE THE ONE THAT’S BEING DEFENSIVE.”

All joking aside, the Patrick’s presence could loom large.

For most of this season, Blue Jackets fans have clamored for a shakeup behind the bench (Scott Arniel) or in the front office (Howson). Arniel’s survived, probably because he’s seen as a good young coach saddled with a lousy team. That’s put more heat on Howson, the architect of said lousy team.

But Howson has also avoided the guillotine, thanks in part to fierce loyalty shown by the guy that hired him: Columbus’ team president, Mike Priest.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Priest isn’t a “hockey guy” by nature — prior to becoming president, he was the CFO of owner John P. McConnell’s holding company — partly why the Columbus organization’s been accused of lacking hockey knowledge and savvy.

Perhaps this is why Priest held onto Howson. Maybe he didn’t have a replacement at the ready. Hockey hires tend to work in one of two ways — either you hire from your inner circle (see: Doug Armstrong-Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis) or, if you don’t have an inner circle, you hire the guy with the best resume.

Which brings us back to Patrick. Resumes don’t get much better than his: He won the Sporting News NHL Executive of the Year three times and GMed the Penguins to two Stanley Cups, five division titles and 11 playoff berths.

So, could Patrick be coming on board as part of a succession plan? Possibly. He hasn’t held an NHL GM gig since 2006 and given the job scarcity (five GM jobs — Buffalo, Carolina, Washington, Detroit and Nashville — haven’t been available since the 90s), Columbus is as attractive an opportunity as any.

We also saw something similar in Calgary when Jay Feaster was hired to assist GM Darryl Sutter….only to replace him a few months later. (And Sutter was the guy that hired Feaster!)

Jeff Carter not asking for a trade has become quite the story

Jeff Carter

Yesterday, we posted rumblings that Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter had asked to be shipped out of Columbus. Those rumblings included a report from RDS — a report that was quickly refuted by Carter’s agent, Rick Curran.

So end of story, right?

Not so fast.

Today, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported that Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson met with Carter in Nashville to discuss the RDS report. “Howson declined to detail the meeting,” Portzline tweeted. “Except to say that he and Carter are on the same page, that there has been no trade request.”

So end of story, right?


A GM meeting his player over what amounts to an Internet trade rumor is odd. It’s also odd that said GM would inform reporters of said meeting, mostly because of the “where’s there’s smoke there’s fire” adage.

It also didn’t help when TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted the following:

“For those asking about reports of Jeff Carter requesting trade out of CBJ, here’s my understanding: There has been no formal request BUT Carter was devastated/miserable at being traded out of PHI and I don’t imagine CBJ’s poor start and his injury have improved mindset.”

Here’s the thing with this situation (and similar rumblings about Rick Nash) — the rumors aren’t really about the players.

They’re about Howson and club president Mike Priest.

These rumors are direct shots across the bows of two men that have been stunningly inactive as their team continues to flounder. When you’re as bad (and inactive) as Columbus is, you give people lots of time to sit around and pick things apart.

One wonders what’s going on inside their heads. Howson deemed the current situation dire enough to post an emotional plea on the BJ’s website, yet not dire enough to make more significant acquisitions than Nikita Nikitin and Mark Letestu.

As for Priest, he’s shown a crazy amount of loyalty to the architect of a flawed roster. (NB: Prior to becoming team president, Priest was the CFO of JMAC Inc. — the company of BJ’s owner John P. McConnell. Not exactly a hockey background.)

Adding fuel to the fire is that St. Louis, one of Columbus’ Central Division rivals, fired head coach Davis Payne and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock. The Blues were in far less dire straits than the Jackets at the time, yet made the bold move and reaped immediate rewards.

Until Columbus does something noteworthy to fix the team, expect to keep hearing trade rumors around guys like Carter and Nash.

Even if they didn’t really ask out.

Should Columbus trade Rick Nash?

Rick Nash

In 2009, Rick Nash signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets. At the time, GM Scott Howson said “we are very happy that he will continue to call Columbus home for many years to come,” while adding, “this is an important and exciting day for our franchise and fans.”

That was two years ago.

Today, folks are asking if Nash should get the hell outta dodge. (Dodge being Columbus in this instance. Look, just go with it.)

Adam Proteau of The Hockey News has penned a column on why Nash would be best served moving out of Columbus.

Sometimes, asking to be moved is the right thing to do, for both the player and his employer. And I think we’ve arrived at that stage when it comes to the increasingly sad story of Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Nash hasn’t made any noise whatsoever about wanting out of Ohio and the Jackets are far from being mathematically eliminated from the 2012 playoffs – his team isn’t altogether bereft of talent. Indeed, I was one of the few people who thought Columbus could make the playoffs this season.

However, the hockey gods have all but extinguished those post-season dreams. Losing prized free agent signing James Wisniewski to an eight-game suspension at the start of the year was bad enough; losing prized trade acquisition Jeff Carter after five games to a fractured foot was worse; and the consistent struggles of starting goalie Steve Mason (whom as I joked on Twitter was in line to star in the next edition of the Saw horror movie franchise: Saw VIII, Let In VII) looks like the worst development of all.

First, the brass tacks: Nash has a no-movement clause through 2015. When that’s up, his no-trade clause kicks in (and goes until 2018.) So there’s that logistical hurdle to overcome.

Second, this isn’t a new line of thought. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman brought it up during Hockey Night in Canada. TSN’s NHL panel of Marc Crawford, Aaron Ward and Bob McKenzie discussed it. Lyle Richardson addressed it in his weekly rumor roundup.

Third…would Columbus even have the stones to pull this off? Not to belittle the offseason work of Howson and club president Mike Priest, but there was no major blowback from the Wisniewski and Carter acquisitions. They were bold moves, but relatively easy ones to make. Wiz only cost the team money (which was spun as a commitment to winning) and Carter only cost them a single roster player (Jakub Voracek).

When the season started poorly and losses mounted, Howson and Priest failed to make any bold, tough moves (unless you count bringing in Mark Letestu and Nikita Nikitin, which I don’t.) Howson still has a job, Scott Arniel still has a job and Steve Mason still isn’t being challenged for the No. 1 goaltending gig.

Addressing any of those issues would be considered a bold move. But trading the face of the franchise? That would be the boldest move of all.

Just doesn’t seem like Columbus is willing to make it.