[UPDATE: I just read this blog piece about the rebuilding of the NFL's Detroit Lions. Read this paragraph, substitute Doug MacLean for Matt Millen, and I think you get a sense of where I'm coming from:
Under former GM Matt Millen, the franchise wasted roster spots on blown draft picks and lemon free-agent acquisitions. And, under the multiple coaching changes, never appeared to establish any scheme. As Millen's pokes and prods turned into desperate risks and frantic prayers, the transient, ambiguous roster fed an incessant identity crisis. One that was defined only by failure.Does that make sense?]
Enter Scott Howson. Our very own personnel Ice Man (or Ninja GM, depending on the jargon you use) has dropped the organizational blood pressure considerably in Columbus. He often is loathe to make any moves at all, but he most certainly does not get rolled over when he does. Consider Antoine Vermette for Pascal Leclaire. Who won that trade? Or Tyutin/Backman for Zherdev/Fritsche?
Perhaps the penultimate demonstration of the patience on Howson's part was this entire past offseason. Staring a disastrous 2009-10 season in the rearview mirror, complete with the firing of likely Hall of Famer Ken Hitchcock and replacing him with Claude Noel, one would think that Howson would take advantage of the drop-off after the 2008-09 playoff year to move some players out, bring some in and improve the roster.
Think again. The two major roster moves that Howson made were: 1) Claim Ethan Moreau off of waivers, and 2) Re-sign Steve Mason. Other than that, Howson essentially said that he liked his roster, and that while he'd like to upgrade the defense, he'd be comfortable taking this squad into the season. And, yes, he overhauled the coaching staff.
So here we are, the week after Christmas. Despite what still is the best CBJ start ever, the Jackets are struggling mightily to extricate themselves from a slide that has seen them win a whopping four games (including overtime/shootout winners) since Thanksgiving. As I've written all over this blog, the Blue Jackets have demonstrated since their dismantling at the hands of the Red Wings that they are incapable of reliably beating any good NHL hockey club with this roster. It's probably past time to start making moves to get the CBJ out of 12th place in the Western Conference and back into playoff contention.
What we love about Howson - his ability to keep his hand close to the vest until he gets a deal he knows will at least be an even trade if not a win...his willingness to stand pat rather than stir the pot up - is precisely what drives us crazy at times like this.
Even his one "panic" trade since coming to Columbus - shipping Jason Chimera off to Washington for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina - is probably a draw in most people's minds as Clark has played OK since coming to Columbus (but not closing the perceived "leadership gap," leading Howson to pick up Moreau as well). And that clearly was a trade designed to forestall the possibility of firing Ken Hitchcock, a situation we're not looking at this year.
So here we are, CBJ fanbase either concerned, nervous, panicked or - like roughly 25% of the post-playoffs season ticket base - given up on the team. Despite the comparatively fast start, the CBJ are still uncomfortably close to the Western Conference cellar. The season's not lost, though, not by any means. The CBJ are two points out of 8th place, 11 points out of the conference lead. With just over half the season to go, it's time to make moves that will put this team over the hump.
The Montreal Canadiens appear to be in a similar boat (albeit in 8th place in the East, a tad more comfortable than the CBJ's current ladder rung), picking up defenseman James Wisniewski from the Islanders for a 2nd round compensatory pick and a conditional 5th rounder. What makes this interesting to CBJ fans is that Howson apparently spoke to the Islanders about "Wiz" before the trade went down.
Very interesting, indeed.
It appears that Howson has received the message that Scott Arniel's been
Howson may be many things, but he's not dumb. And he has said on past occasions that he will not sacrifice the future for a short-term fix. (Never mind that the short-term fixes that he engineered in 08-09 got the team into the playoffs...really, never mind that.) He's got a plan and will stick to it. And he couldn't care less what we in the fan world, or the media (much to Kevin Dineen and Sheldon Souray's chagrin), think.
It's said that one of the problems with the CBJ locker room is its high "boiling point" - that the team is so calm, so - ummm - passive that it doesn't get angry and take that out on the opposition. (I obliquely reference that line of thinking when I suggest that the team retreats to its "happy place".) It's very possible that the team may actually have a higher boiling point than it's general manager, though.
The question that I'm wrestling with, however, is, "Is that high of a boiling point necessarily a good thing when the season could hang in balance?"