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Howson Begins To Disassemble Columbus

With yesterday’s trade of Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for Jack Johnson and the 2012 Kings first round draft pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets have shown that they are going to sell off their assets.  I do not want to call this process a rebuild because that implies the Columbus Blue Jackets were ever built.  For a team that has never won a playoff game that is a claim I would not want to make.  The most alarming thing is that Scott Howson is allowed to sell of the Blue Jacket assets.  He has never shown the ability to be a competent NHL GM and he should be replaced this summer, if not earlier, yet he is given the chance to try to build a future for this franchise.

Columbus has never had a good general manager.  Doug MacLean did not have the ability to make anything out of the expansion Blue Jackets.  He was replaced by Howson in 2007.  At the time I was sceptical.  In the mainstream media Howson was portrayed as a GM in waiting, but how good could the number two guy be on a team that just missed the playoffs (the Edmonton Oilers where Howson was previously employed)?

Howson is in his fifth year as Columbus GM and I am yet to see him make a move that has paid off in a significant way for his team.  The Blue jackets currently have 18 wins in 60 games played.  This leaves them in last place.  They are eleven points behind second last Edmonton (which was his previous gig).  They have done so with a larger than average NHL payroll.  The most damning thing Howson did this season was give Scott Arniel too long a run as coach and let his best potential replacement Ken Hitchcock get away to St Louis

This particular trade does not impress me.  Jeff Carter is clearly the best player in the deal.  Jack Johnson is a puck moving defenceman on the worst offensive team in the NHL.  How important can he be to a team’s attack?  Jack Johnson’s +/- ratings show a defensive problems year after year.  He is a former third pick in the 2006 entry draft and that pedigree has opened doors for him that he has likely not deserved.  A mid-first round draft pick will have some value for the Blue Jackets but it is unlikely to make up the value being sent away.  Jeff Carter is a solid hockey player is an excessively long contract, but there is a good chance he will have an All Star season or two in the near future.

Columbus is not done yet.  More big name players will likely be moved.  This includes Rick Nash, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin and others.  The Columbus team will be remade into a cheaper, less talented bunch then their current last place group.  If it is done well they will have a strong future in front of them.  If done poorly Columbus will remain an also ran well into the future.  Given his track record, I wouldn’t trust Scott Howson with this process.  Columbus needs a new GM.  They need one now.  Scott Howson doesn’t have the skills to do it well.  Columbus will likely not get anywhere as they come through this process.  They are stuck on the road to oblivion.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have never been a strong team.  They have never won a playoff game.  Scott Howson has failed as a GM.  He has not been relieved of his duties and has been allowed to oversee the selloff of their current talent.  If he fails in this process (which seems like the best bet given his track record), Columbus will get nowhere in this process.  They will lose cheaper and have no future to show for it.  There is a little to cheer about in Columbus right now.

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you didn’t even bring up his drafting record.  That to me is where he failed the most.  Brule, Filatov, Zherdev were all very high draft picks and basically got nothing out of most of them.  You can’t bomb for a year and at least have no prospect to show for it.

They really should let Craig Patrick take over and just start losing for a couple years and compile high end draft picks.  They already got Johansen and will likely have Yakapov this draft.  That’s two pieces to build around.

Posted by tbassett on 02/24/12 at 03:01 PM ET

Dakkster's avatar

tbassett: You have to make a distinction between McLean’s and Howson’s draft record. Jake Voracek was Howson’s first pick. You can see a convenient list here:


I think the BJs are slowly but surely starting to draft better, but drafting hasn’t been their main concern. It’s what happens after the draft where they suck the most in probably the entire league.

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 02/24/12 at 03:41 PM ET


dakkster i stand corrected.

Posted by tbassett on 02/24/12 at 03:49 PM ET


Howson has made some really bad deals in the past - notably the one acquiring Jeff Carter.

But, Jeff Carter was unhappy to play in Columbus. The Jackets won’t compete in the next 5 years, and by that time Carter will be 32. They’re much, much better off with a slightly younger, less expensive player, and a 1st round pick. This facilitates a true building process to occur.

Is Jeff Carter better than Jack Johnson? In the absolute, probably, yes. Is he better than Johnson and a 1st round pick. It’s arguable, but I won’t argue for it. Is Columbus better off today than yesterday? Certainly.

Posted by Jean on 02/24/12 at 04:31 PM ET


In defense of the Carter trade, Howson didn’t know Couturier would slide to 8th. He was thought to be gone about 3 picks before that. Voracek and Shiefele for Carter looks a lot less lopsided.

Other than the cost of acquiting Carter, though, Howson sucks at everything GM-related.

Posted by larry from pitt on 02/24/12 at 05:57 PM ET


True, he did not - still, an 8th pick overall and Voracek for Jeff Carter, when you are nowhere near competitive and your only good player is a goalscorer of superior quality to Jeff Carter, is a horrid, horrid deal.

True, Couturier landing in Philadelphia is “bad luck”, but it’s an 8th pick overall nonetheless. Giving those away (with Voracek) for a player you clearly do not need when you’re nowhere near competing is asking for trouble.

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

DocF's avatar

Unless there are a couple of other GMs who exhibit a large degree of ineptness, Columbus is stuck with Nash and Wisniewski as they are grossly overpaid.  The people they can move are guys who have contributed more than they can reasonably be expected to for such a hideous team.  Guys like Malhotra, for example.

They got minimum value for Jeff Carter as a player.  As a member of the Blue Jackets, they got a good deal.  That trade did not make my heart go flippity flop on either side of the bargain. 

The one thing all of us should be able to agree on is that Howson should have been invited to move to the nacho department in concessions and someone, anyone, should have replaced him before the demolition work started.


Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 02/24/12 at 07:15 PM ET

wolverine's avatar

Wow.  Just went to the hockey db draft page posted by dakkster. 
A blind monkey throwing darts at names would have a better roster than they do now.  Whoever said that drafting is the least of their problems is terribly mistaken.  Chicago gets Toews in 2005 and Kane in 2006.  Get Byfuglien as a late pick.  They have Seabrook and Keith from prior drafts.  Trade for Sharp, Versteeg, and Ladd.  Add Hossa as a UFA. There is your 2010 Stanley Cup.

Posted by wolverine on 02/24/12 at 08:49 PM ET


There’s a case that Jack Johnson + a 1st is actually negative value for the Blue Jackets—they already have a puck mover to QB the power play, and Jack Johnson is absolutely horrid (and doesn’t put up points) at even strength. Sigh. I think the easiest, quickest thing Howson could have done is get rid of Mason and, say, swap Nikita Filatov (when he still had him) for a guy like Josh Harding (it’s not hard to find a better goalie than Mason). The Blue Jackets outshoot their opponents, so their skaters aren’t completely outmatched. They’d at least be competitive that way, and keep Vermette and let Johansen develop and you’re looking at a playoff team (well, maybe if they weren’t playing in the mighty Central) as soon as this season.

Oh well. I bet Jeff Carter is ecstatic, and Los Angeles becomes the sixth very, very strong team in the West.

Posted by Ralph on 02/25/12 at 03:14 AM ET

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