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A Poorly Run Franchise

I have long argued that a well-run team should have its staff in place (GM, coach etc.) for the next season before they go through the draft and free agency that will help build the team for the future.  In some cases this is not because it is crucial to have a coach in place to run a draft but for the buy-in that comes from being part of the process.  A coach feels that he is part of a team and was involved in building it.  He feels involved and doesn’t feel as though he is taking over somebody else’s team.  This is valuable to any team.  The Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals did not have coaches as they went into this year’s draft.  This is a mistake for both of these teams and shows that they are not so well run.  However we have another team that is breaking new ground in ways to be poorly run.  The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the draft by firing four members of their scouting staff.  Brian Bates, Andrew Shaw, Artem Telepin and John Williams (Williams was their assistant director of amateur scouting).

This is a move that makes no sense.  If these scouts are not good enough to carry on after the draft they were not good enough to help run the draft.  It must have been clear months ago that there was a problem with the Columbus scouting system.  That was the time to make the moves.  It is entirely asinine to fire your scouting staff immediately following the draft. 

Columbus is a bad team.  They finished in last place last season.  The problems go well beyond the scouting staff and they are partly shown by the management system that would let this scouting staff stay in place for its most important day of the season and then replace them after the damage is done (if the scouting staff is incompetent).  I wrote that Scott Howson must go back in February and he continues to give me reasons to think this is the only way that Columbus can ever become a competitive team again.

The Columbus Blue Jackets may be the most poorly run team in the NHL.  That is really saying something because other teams face serious ownership crises (such as Phoenix) and do a much better job than the Blue Jackets do.  Firing your scouting staff immediately following the draft is terribly incompetent.  It is amazing that even Columbus would do that.

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Comments

Chris from NOHS's avatar

They might be the worst run team in recent history.  Or ever.  Hard to argue against it.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 06/24/12 at 01:46 PM ET

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Good thing the Devils had a coach at last years draft. Wait, what?

Posted by eric from baltimore on 06/24/12 at 02:00 PM ET

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Suppose that Columbus, at some point, realizes that it has problems with their scouting staff (operating at, say, 70% of what you’d like) big enough to warrant a clean house.

This realization can happen at any time over the course of the year. It can happen in September or May. If it happens in May… what is the front office supposed to do? Fire them all on the spot and establish a new draft strategy at the last minute, with a very small handful of the available players still playing?

If I were in that situation, I’d ride it out until the draft and get rid of the scouting staff afterwards. Like the BJ’s did.

Now, the BJ’s have done an awful job, they have been a poorly run franchise, that much is true. It is probably still the case. That said, I cannot fault them for this move.

Posted by Jean on 06/24/12 at 02:53 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If Columbus didn’t figure out until May that they had a bad scouting staff then they were not paying attention.  It was pretty obvious to everyone else long before that point.  I would fault them for not noticing reality before it was too late.

It has also been obvious that they have had a bad general manager for months.  When will they make a move there?  After he trades away Rick Nash - the best player in the history of the franchise?  After he does even more damage than that?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/24/12 at 02:57 PM ET

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Going into the draft with your poor scouts is a lot better than going into the draft with no scouts at all. 

Racing to cobble together a scouting team in time for the draft - especially when many scouts employed by other teams wouldn’t be able to bring over a lot of their work from this or previous years - would be the sign of incompetence. 

Letting your scouts finish the year before rebuilding the scouting team is the logical, competent thing to do.  Now the franchise can rebuild their amateur scouting system in the off-season, as they should.

Posted by jonquixote on 06/24/12 at 03:04 PM ET

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So, PSH, you’re arguing that the BJ’s should’ve figured out that they had a poor scouting staff earlier. Fair enough, and we might agree on that.

But, the failure to see that their scouting staff is bad is why they are poorly ran. Firing them now isn’t. Firing them in May would’ve been incompetent.

They realized too late that their staff wasn’t good. That’s a mistake. They fired them after the draft rather than just before. That’s not a mistake. Indeed, it shows that the team is capable of making a smart move once in a while.

Posted by Jean on 06/24/12 at 03:12 PM ET

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Going into the draft with your poor scouts is a lot better than going into the draft with no scouts at all. 

Is it? Seems to me Columbus would have a better draft history using the Red Line Report than their internal scouts. Then again, for all I know, Howson’s never listened to his scouts anyway.

Posted by larry from pitt on 06/24/12 at 03:17 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

But, the failure to see that their scouting staff is bad is why they are poorly ran.

That is part of the reason Columbus is poorly ran.

Firing them now isn’t.

This is a consequence of several other bad decisions.  They wouldn’t fire them now unless they were poorly ran.

Firing them in May would’ve been incompetent.

Yes this would be incompetent too.

There is nothing that occurs in May that should lead one to determine their scouting staff isn’t any good.  Columbus didn’t play any games.  Most of their prospects are no longer playing in their leagues.  The time to determine they are not doing their job is months before this.  Why didn’t Columbus do this?  My best explanation is Howson is no good at his job.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/24/12 at 03:23 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Easily agreed that Columbus is the most poorly-run franchise in the NHL and possibly in North American professional sports.  Firing their scouting staff the day after the draft is clear indication that there is something very wrong in Columbus and I’m frankly dismayed that Scott Howson wasn’t a part of the house-cleaning, considering that at some point, the buck is supposed to stop at the GM’s desk.

All that said, firing them on the day when there is the maximum amount of time before the next draft may actually have been a savvy move in a swamp of horrible management.

It certainly does give the organization the maximum amount of time to get a new scouting staff on deck and up to speed before they’re needed for the draft again (although it’s not like they’re doing nothing for the rest of the year). 

Just the fact remains that with Scott Howson still at the helm, I can’t trust that there actually is an organizational philosophy and I believe the new scouting staff will be undermined from the top down.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/24/12 at 03:44 PM ET

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Things simply haven’t been the same since Mr. McConnell Sr. passed away just before the team’s first season that led to the playoffs.  What’s more, Mike Priest’s inability to stay involved only with the business administration of the team, putting his fingers in the hockey operations despite a lack of experience of any sort in sports management, has caused many problems if what some word-of-mouth comments have said is to be believed, including the painfulness of looking for a head coach and how some of the interviews have gone with candidates.

As for the current majority owner, John P. McConnell, it’s hard to tell whether he’s inept and living off of daddy’s coattails, or if he just plain doesn’t care about the hockey team and would rather put his focus and time in to other business ventures, such as Worthington Industries.  Of course it makes sense to focus on Worthington since it’s his father’s legacy, but at the same time he comes off as someone who simply does not have any idea how to make an effort to try and better the team in the front office, be it the business side or the hockey side of things.

At this point, all you can really hope is that McConnell someday realizes that just because Priest was good at Worthington, that does not make him a proper fit for hockey.  I wonder, perhaps, if Priest having a strong personality, as compared to Scott Howson’s more publicly docile one, is the reason he over-involves himself with parts of the team he should stay out of.

Posted by Michael Turner from Columbus, OH on 06/24/12 at 03:58 PM ET

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And just to add one more thing ... John H. McConnell, before he passed away, loved this team.  He would have given this team the stars, the moon, and everything else in the sky just to see them win.  I had the honor of meeting him when I worked for The Blue Line at Nationwide Arena, and it’s obvious why everyone around there loved him.  And I can only believe that if he were still alive today, maybe this team would be going in a different direction.

It’s true, he is the one who brought ol’ Doug MacLean on and kept him on for several years of mediocrity, but things were starting to turn around afterwards.  Bringing on Ken Hitchcock himself, for example.  The players loved that man, perhaps Rick Nash the most, if you remember his post-game comments the day they clinched their first playoff berth.

It’s tragic, and sad, really.

Posted by Michael Turner from Columbus, OH on 06/24/12 at 04:01 PM ET

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Going into the draft with your poor scouts is a lot better than going into the draft with no scouts at all. 

No it isn’t.  It’s essentially the same thing.

In fact, if you’re going in with no scouts then you can just take the central scouting list and continually draft the best player available.  If you have poor scouts, they might try to convince you to draft someone worse, because they are poor scouts.

Posted by Garth on 06/24/12 at 07:46 PM ET

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Sad franchise.  why is Howson still in charge?  Terrible trade with Flyers.  All those picks for Bobrovsky?  He’s not a great goalie.

Posted by 13 user names on 06/25/12 at 08:29 AM ET

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Columbus and Howson are clowns but they have company in a poorly run team on Long Island!!

Posted by faxrumors on 06/25/12 at 10:34 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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