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09-13-2012, 04:49 PM
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In (Partial) Defense Of Scott Howson's Recent Trade History

Advance warning: If you're here just to reply "tl;dr" or "lol" or similar - this is not an attempt to find who specifically doesn't care to consider or discuss viewpoints other than the groupthink norm, so such input is neither helpful nor necessary and is therefore generally unwelcome. Just an advance FYI.

* * *

There seems to be a running perception that Scott Howson is not just the GM of the team that did the worst last year, but also that he's far and away the worst GM in the NHL at everything he does. This seems a tad excessive, and is generally not a conclusion based on rational analysis. Anyone could tell you that his team-building attempt last offseason was a failure, but folks have run with that information to an absurd degree.

In particular, Howson is getting vilified as being horrible at trades. This makes most folks who follow his moves regularly laugh incredulously, but it's become a truism of HFBoards, enshrined along with other pieces of inalienable "wisdom" such as "Luongo can't win big games", "Pavel Bure was a cherry-picker", "Every (Leafs/Habs/Oilers/etc.) fan is a homer", and "Phoenix and New Jersey will miss the playoffs next year."

It's to the point that I've started to distinguish between Scott Howson, semicompetent GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and "Scott Howsen", village idiot of the Colombus Blow Jackets. Unfortunately, many seem to assume that they're the same person.

Let's take a quick look at those three recent big trades that seem to be the center of the issue, and see how groupthink accentuating the negative affects conclusions as to how they are perceived. As a comparative, I've included "conclusions" based on similarly overaccentuating the positive for Columbus - and yes, I laughed at them too.

And no, I'm not even bringing up Nikita Nikitin. Well, okay, not in any significant fashion.


#1: Jeff Carter to Columbus for Voracek, CBJ 1st 2011, CBJ 3rd 2011.
Most folks would think it constructive because:
* It's fair value for a fairly effective goal scorer.
* Possible chemistry with Nash aside, Columbus had never been high on top-line talent players and could significantly benefit.
* The 1st was well outside of any position where folks could normally get a major impact player, especially after the Devils won the lottery and thereby kicked it back from 7th to 8th overall.

* To say Carter didn't work out here would be a gross understatement - his reaction to coming here was literally unprecedented in the history of the NHL in terms of just how badly he reacted, performed, and treated everyone else on the roster.
* Sean Couturier inexplicably dropped to 8th overall after some curious draft selection choices - particularly by Ottawa and Winnipeg.
* Folks started noticing Voracek as the player he is - not the player he could be, but what he is - and instead of reaching the accurate conclusion that they're not paying enough attention to CBJ players and had underrated him, instead perversely concluded that Voracek had somehow "broken out" after being "freed" from the Jackets.
* This is Columbus we're talking about here. They finished last overall, y'know.

This was a trade that seemed justified and well-dome at the time, but has backfired badly - both due to bad luck (Couturier, the unprecedented extent of Carter's madness) and due to issues that should have been foreseen (that Carter would be frustrated at all). It is a black mark.

CBJ would have won this trade, but everything conspired against us. It was all bad luck.

Columbus lost this trade badly, and Howson is an idiot and a fool for having not seen that every bit of this would happen.

#2: Jack Johnson and LA 1st (2012 or 2013, CBJ option) to Columbus for Jeff Carter.
Most folks would think it constructive because:
* See above re: how Jeff Carter damn near destroyed what little cohesion was left among the Jackets. He was a poison pill and had to be removed ASAP.
* Columbus's blueline had been ravaged by injuries; adding a quality player like JMFJ really helped.
* Unlike Carter, JMFJ was (and is) enthusiastic to be part of the Jackets and happy to turn what had become a malignant locker room into an uptempo, uplifting place.
* By the end of the year, JMFJ was a plus player (for the first time in his NHL career) and is looking like the favorite for the since-vacated captaincy.

* JMFJ has a hatedom, especially among advanced stats folks.
* Carter's record in Columbus was, as previously stated, g-dawful... and somehow that's held against this trade for reasons I cannot adequately explain beyond "people are stupid".
* The doctrine of "every trade always and inevitably has exactly one winner and one loser" in this case pays more attention to the fact that the Kings won the Cup.
* This is Columbus we're talking about here. They finished last overall, y'know.

This was a very well executed trade that did an excellent job of making up for an earlier error, particularly given the extent to which Carter was dogging the team.

CBJ won this trade by a country mile because JMFJ is a much better player than Carter and we got a 1st too!

Columbus gave away a quality forward for nothing, Howson is actively destroying anything resembling a team, and CBJ completely and utterly lost this trade AINEC.

#3: Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, NYR 1st 2013 to Columbus for Rick Nash.
Most folks would think it constructive because:
* Nash had asked for a trade because thanks to Jeff Carter destroying the place, pretty much all team progress had gone out the window and at least a reshuffle was inevitable.
* Between this trade and ongoing development, Columbus went from having one top-line player and not enough quality forwards to fill out the rest of the top-6 to having enough capable players to run three "second lines". Scoring-by-committee, GO!
* Columbus actually got more back than predicted by the HF groupthink mob - given that most folks were suggesting deals along the lines of one roster forward (Dubi), one lesser-quality prospect forward (sometimes Miller), and a 1st.

* Howson revealed the trade request, which was... ill-considered at best.
* Columbus didn't get Chris Kreider - they had to settle for NYR's #2 prospect in Tim Erixon. (Never mind that this was partially predicted by the aforementioned groupthink mob...).
* Dubinsky is perceived to have had a "down year" based on his point scoring totals, and nobody thinks rebounding in someplace like Columbus is possible. (Nobody ever rebounds in Columbus, after all, right? Pay no attention to JMFJ.)
* Erixon treated Calgary poorly in the past, and so folks assume he'll do the same to Columbus. (To be fair, this is also a fear of many Jackets fans, although his initial comments post-trade have partially alleviated this.)
* While Columbus might actually have enough top-6 capable forwards to fill out an entire top-9, there are no generally accepted and/or proven top-line forwards left on the roster. (Unless, of course, some kids break out, but that doesn't qualify as "proven", and nobody ever gives any Columbus prospects any credit whatsoever.)
* Since folks have already concluded that the prior two trades were badly lost, there's now an assumption that Howson inevitably loses trades "by default".
* This is Columbus we're talking about here. They finished last overall, y'know.

This was a quality hockey trade, despite the self-sabotage at the deadline.

This trade means we have enough quality forwards that we'll make the playoffs next year. It's a winner based on that alone. /thread

Colombus lost this trade so badly they don't even have a team capable of competing in the AHL or ECHL anymore, and Howsen is not just easily the worst GM in the NHL AINEC but probably also incapable of tying his shoes in the morning and not drooling on himself.

Overall conclusion: Howson's judged as a poor trader because folks are accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive, and in some cases (Voracek evaluations especially) compounding existing ignorance with further ignorance. What's happened is that a high-profile target backfired spectacularly - in ways that partly could and partly couldn't have been forseen - and Eternal Damnation has unfairly resulted.

To be sure, we probably could (and probably should) do better than Howson. But let's not overstate the issue by claiming he's the worst GM of all time.

Remember - when you're a hockey fan, it's not "reckless driving", it's "good forechecking".
"Viqsi, you are our sweet humanist..." --mt-svk on the CBJ boards

Thanks, Howson, for cleaning up MacLean's toxic waste. Welcome, Kekalainen; let's get good things built!
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