Scott Howson - vindicated, or deserving of his reputation?
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03-30-2013, 04:55 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
I'm going to have to break this into several parts. I can't promise that this is "the ultimate guide to Scott Howson's regime", but it may be the most extensive yet compiled anywhere. Most people don't care; that's their problem. I don't care if someone reads all of this and comes to the opposite conclusion, but I'll be damned if I'll allow the vacuum of analysis to continue on.
So read on.
Part 1: Origins
Scott Howson was hired as the second GM in Columbus Blue Jackets history on June 15, 2007. If reports are to be believed, he was (at best) the second choice behind Bob Murray. Howson had been GM of the Cape Breton Oilers from 1994-2000, at which point he joined Edmonton as their assistant GM until Columbus hired him. He had 13 years of high-level experience as an executive in hockey. Previously, he had been an excellent minor league player. Based off of reports I've read, he was a scoring forward who could also be more than a bit mouthy. The latter part is in stark contrast to his image in Columbus and around the NHL, where he would be tagged as "Niles" due to similarities to a character of the same name on the TV show "Frasier".
Columbus was one week away from hosting the NHL Entry Draft, and would be picking 7th. Howson had one week to get to know the scouting staff, set a vision, and make some selections. It was of vital importance to do so, as former GM Doug MacLean had left the team's farm system completely bereft of talent.
I'm going to transition quickly to an aside. Players get injured in the NHL; it's a fact of life. MacLean was GM of the Blue Jackets for 7 years, and in his 7th year, the same type of players were on the call-up list. If a defenseman was injured, Derrick Walser would usually be the first guy summoned. If not him, then Aaron Johnson. If not him, then any of a number of ECHL-level players like Filip Novak. Now, if a forward was injured, then it would be one of Geoff Platt, Steve Goertzen, or Greg Mauldin. If a goalie was injured, there was always a waiver acquisition, since there was never anyone in Springfield. This was
after the team entered the league.
On the NHL roster was a random assortment of dead weight, has-beens, and never-will-bes. Duvie Westcott had just been re-signed to a four-year contract extension, and he was a top-4 defenseman in Columbus. Three of the top four forwards were both over 30 and also declining rapidly (David Vyborny, Sergei Fedorov, and Fredrik Modin). Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev were the
only two forwards under 30
who were ever a scoring threat. Defensemen were led by washed-up Adam Foote, oft-injured Rostislav Klesla, wildly inconsistent Ron Hainsey, the aforementioned Duvie Westcott, and Anders Eriksson. Yes, you read that right. Anders Eriksson had two seasons in Columbus, playing 66 and 79 games.
"But," you may say, "You're not talking about the prospects!" This is true. This is because there really were none. Future NHL players who were not in Syracuse or on the NHL roster were:
- Andrew Murray, Jared Boll, Tom Sestito (all fourth-line forwards at best)
- Derek Dorsett (third-line forward)
- Derick Brassard (second-line forward)
- Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome (third-pairing defenseman)
- Steve Mason (goalie)
I kid you not, that's it. That's the extent of prospects that weren't in pro hockey in 2007. Adam McQuaid had been a 2nd-round pick in 2005; MacLean didn't think he could play, so he didn't sign him. Interim GM Jim Clark traded him to Boston for a 5th-rounder before he could re-enter the draft.
In addition, it was revealed that MacLean (as team president and GM) had been padding the team's attendance numbers by at least a couple thousand a game.
The coaching staff was led by Ken Hitchcock, who had been hired as coach the previous year over Doug MacLean's objections. The roster was entirely ill-suited for Hitchcock, who prefers a mobile shutdown defensive corps, with offense from the back end a bonus but not a necessity.
THIS is what Scott Howson walked into on June 15, 2007. His mission:
- Trim the dead weight off the NHL roster. There was an awful lot of it, from the washed-up to the malcontent to the useless to the chronically injured.
- Stock the farm system. Not "re-stock"; that would suggest that it had been stocked at any point in history. But actually stock it, to the point that future NHL players would be the guys being called up instead of ECHL-level players.
- Stock the NHL roster with NHL players. Scour the globe to find them if necessary, but the days of Duvie Westcott logging big minutes would have to come to an end.
- Somehow, someway, build a contender if at all possible.
In the team's entire history, Columbus had never finished at .500. The seasons of success, in order, were: 74, 73, 71, 69, 62, and 57 points. In terms of games under .500, that's an overall -86 in six seasons on the ice, for an average of 67.7 points per year. The future was bleak, with no real prospects to do anything within the next five seasons. The roster, farm system, everything was in shambles, and a first-time NHL GM was being asked to pick up the pieces.
Next up. Part 2: The Setting
[EDIT: May fire consume you if you quote this entire post for the purpose of responding to it. For the love of everything, please edit it down substantially if you must respond]
Last edited by Mayor Bee: 03-30-2013 at
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