Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The (intertwined) days of reckoning

Ryan Johansen's future apparently hangs
in the balance at the same time as
the future of the Columbus Blue Jackets
Word is coming out of Nationwide Arena that we may hear today regarding the decision on whether to keep rookie phenom Ryan Johansen on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster.  "The Johan," or "RyJo" (has anyone asked him what he prefers?), has played in his ninth NHL game; a tenth game would activate his entry-level contract and burn a year of that three-year deal in 2011-12.  Should he be sent back to major junior hockey, his three-year deal would not start until next season.  Johansen also would carry a salary cap number of $1.945 million for this season.

As many suggest, a decision on Johansen's NHL status should be made with his and the CBJ's best interests in mind.  As I've mentioned, Johansen's best interests might not always coincide with the Blue Jackets'.  However, it's honestly rather tough to figure out the CBJ's position right now.  For more on that, let's go to the Dispatch:
Sources indicated to The Dispatch late Saturday that the Blue Jackets have begun preparing for the possible firing of general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel should the horrendous start not get turned around quickly.

Club president Mike Priest vehemently denied reports that he had discussed a return to coaching by former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, or that he had reached out to former NHL executive and current broadcaster Craig Button as a potential GM candidate.


“Let me be clear here, though,” Priest said. “Everybody understands that the losing can’t continue.”
And with that, the past vote of confidence for coach Scott Arniel and general manager Scott Howson becomes as clear as mud.  Which doesn't help this Johansen question one bit.

I could write and write about this ad nauseum, but my main concern is, "Will the people who are responsible for making a decision on Johansen right now be the people who have to deal with the consequences (positive and negative) later?" (And by later, I mean later this season...)

CBJ coach Scott Arniel instructs Ryan Johansen at
the opening of Blue Jackets training camp
I would think the worst thing that could happen is that lame ducks make a well-intentioned move on Johansen that runs counter to the desires of a new administration.  Think about Ken Hitchcock and Nikita Filatov.  I'm not saying that Filatov was (or is) NHL-worthy, but it was clear that Hitchcock didn't want him on the roster.  Now think about Johansen: Would it not be a waste to put him on the roster for a coach that didn't want him?  Or to send him to the Portland Winterhawks and have a coach wringing his hands over the lack of Johansen's talent for the balance of the season?

So what I would hope to see is an ownership-level decision on the coaching and hockey operations management to once and for all - at least for the balance of this season - get settled before tackling the Johansen question.  Make a change or stay the course, I don't care.  But make that decision (or those decisions, depending on how deep a shakeup could go) and then put Johansen in the place that is best for both parties' interests.

It's all a matter of process.  Address the macro issues first (coach/GM), then address the micro issues (player personnel).  But that's just me.

UPDATE: Minutes after I put this blog post up, general manager Scott Howson added this to his Twitter feed...
We have decided to keep Ryan Johnasen [sic] through the 10 game threshhold which means the 1st year of his contract will apply to this season.
On the merits: Johansen has done all that he's been allowed to do, and he's shown that he has the ability to contribute to the club.

In the bigger picture: I hope that the Blue Jackets have also closed the book on the speculation over Howson and Arniel for all the reasons stated above.


  1. It was stated numerous times by Arniel, and Howson that Ryan had to EARN a roster spot. Based on those comments, the contract SHOULD have nothing to do with him staying, or going.

    Its easy to say he has EARNED a roster spot. He's outperformed numerous players on the roster.

  2. Anon - I do not disagree with your assessment, as long as its made through the lens of Scott Arniel and Scott Howson.

    The point of my piece is that a new coach should not be saddled with a player that he does not deem ready, and that a GM should not be saddled with a contract that he didn't want to carry this season. And, right now, it's hard to tell if the current coach and GM will be around at the end of the season.

    That's why I stayed neutral in the piece (until the update) on Johansen's merits. This post was about the process and how other matters needed to be resolved first.