Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stop the Insanity!

A perfectly fine morning (where the Dark Blue Toddler and I cruised the Asia exhibit at the award-winning Columbus Zoo and, oddly enough, ran into one of Eklund's hockey teammates from New Jersey) was shattered by reading this morning's Puck Rakers blog post discussing the Tampa Bay Lightning's hiring of Detroit Red Wing legend Steve Yzerman as their new General Manager - and its implication for CBJ General Manager Scott Howson's search for a Columbus Blue Jackets head coach.

OK, I'll hold on while you stop laughing about Stevie Y tanking his career for a giant paycheck to salvage professional hockey in Florida.  (That must be one giant paycheck!)  Waiting....waiting....waiting....OK, let's move on.

Long story short, the post makes current Portland Pirates (AHL - Buffalo Sabres) coach and CBJ coaching candidate Kevin Dineen seem like long-lost fraternity house buddies.  The Puck Rakers theory goes like this: If Yzerman and Dineen are buds, there is a chance that Yzerman may hire Dineen!!!!

(Dineen, as you surely know by now, played for Columbus back in the early days of the franchise and spent some time as a development coach - two things that, along with 50 cents, probably could buy Scott Howson a cheap cup of coffee.)

Two things amaze me about this post.  First, this quote is just stunning:
The consensus throughout the NHL since the end of the regular season is that Dineen was the likely pick to be the Blue Jackets next coach. The move makes sense on so many different levels. Dineen has interviewed twice with Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. His first interview was on May 4, exactly three weeks ago. The second was on May 18.
Readers have to appreciate that the Dispatch reporters have been in the "Jackets will likely hire Dineen" camp pretty much since Ken Hitchcock was fired.  Jeff Little aptly points this out - and mentions that they also whiffed on identifying Scott Arniel as a primary target candidate.  The digital trail on this runs long and deep...go look at their blog posts and listen to their podcasts.  It's Dineen...and everyone else for the CBJ.  With today's post, that theme continues.

Now, let's analyze the quoted paragraph.  "The consensus throughout the NHL since the end of the regular season is that Dineen was the likely pick to be the Blue Jackets next coach."  If it isn't clear by now, Scott Howson apparently couldn't give a damn what the rest of the NHL thinks.  If he really cared, he never would have fired Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinee-to-be Ken Hitchcock.  And he couldn't have resigned Rick Nash to a lengthy extension, because Nash was going to sign with Toronto.  Point is, we have a very bright guy running our hockey club who just doesn't automatically subscribe to conventional wisdom.  Sometimes this mode works well - take Billy Beane's incredible work with Major League Baseball's Oakland A's, for example.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Regardless, it's clear that Scott Howson is doing his own thing and not automatically subscribing to what The Fraternity tells him he should be doing.

Next, "The move makes sense on so many different levels."  And they are....?

"Dineen has interviewed twice with Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. His first interview was on May 4, exactly three weeks ago. The second was on May 18."  And that, my friends, is the sum total of the Puck Rakers justification for Kevin Dineen's hiring in this particular blog post.

Really.  It is.  Nothing more.  The fact that Dineen interviewed twice is enough.  To quote George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld: "Hire this man!"

But wait...by that same token, shouldn't Scott Arniel be a shoo-in?  I mean, he interviewed twice as well.  And what about Claude Noel?  His first interview was apparently so thorough that Howson decided that a second interview wasn't even necessary.  Why was the contract extension for Noel not inked back on May 14?

Bizarre, I tell you.

The other major issue I have is with this notion that Howson is taking too long to pick a coach.  If no one else has noticed, let's put it out there: To the best of my knowledge, NO team that has lost its head coach since the end of the NHL's regular season has hired a replacement.  That being said, where's the fire?  Why is waiting to interview Guy Boucher, which it's now pretty clear that Howson is indeed doing, such a bad thing?  And if we have four outstanding candidates for head coach, is it all bad that we lose one?

Again, the headline "Patience can be a vice, too" is a statement only cementing the Dispatch's fixation on Dineen.  From this outsider's perspective, it honestly seems like the writers over there cannot understand why the search - which will eventually result in Dineen's hiring, right? - Howson is stretching this process out.

Howson has been abundantly clear about this: He has a process.  He has candidates that he wants to interview.  He's going to interview each of them.  Implicit in that approach is (and I'm putting words in Howson's mouth here), "My team is special, and the opportunity to coach here is special.  I want a coach who wants to be here for a long time.  Anyone who wants this job that bad will wait."  That's a powerful philosophy, one that he can get away with as long as he has at least a couple candidates who buy in.  It also insulates Howson from the insecurity of his candidates talking to other clubs - like Scott Arniel talking to Atlanta, or the (gasp!) possibility that Kevin Dineen might talk to Tampa.  These coaches are considering a major move if they commit to Howson and CBJ President Mike Priest's vision of a Nashville-style long-term tandem of GM and Coach; can you blame them if they test the water before making such a huge commitment?

The Dispatch is in a pickle here.  Little points out that they painted themselves into their particular corner by getting into the driver's seat on the Dineen bandwagon.  They risk losing credibility if he's not hired.  Perhaps...just maybe...they look at the Dineen/Yzerman theory (combined with the agonizing Howson patience) as an "out," where they save face because Dineen gets hired before Howson pulls the trigger?

In the end, it's not about Kevin Dineen.  It's not even about the Columbus Dispatch.  It's about the Columbus Blue Jackets getting a great coach who will take the considerable young talent on the team and mold them into a consistent playoff contender.  So, please, Stop the Insanity!

[Late note: Little addresses the same matter here.  I haven't read it yet but am willing to bet that it's good.]


  1. Wonderful writeup! Portie was just trying to incite the masses with this theory that he literally probably just played six degrees of separation to find.

  2. Yzerman is closer to Gallant than he is to Dineen. My guess is Stevie will pick a coach from the Detroit organization