Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Blue Jackets coaching search: Winners and Losers

The long-running saga that was the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching search has now ended, and it's now time to render judgement on the many goings-on since the end of the season.

As always, this blog is just my opinion.  If you don't like it, don't read it - or block my Twitter account - or whatever.  As Martini Hockey suggests, "Hockey commentary is not meant to be filtered. Raise a little hell, y'know?" So I'll do just that!


The Columbus Blue Jackets: As I've been saying all along, Scott Howson lined up a stable of four strong candidates. While each had their own combination of x's and o's and personality, any of them would be worthy of a head coaching job in the NHL.  They got one of the four.  Win.

Scott Howson: This is a man of his word, which carries him a lot farther in the league than some would think. He said he had a plan and executed that plan. He waited when he had to and moved nimbly when he could. Where process adjustments were necessary along the way, he made them. First-choice coach or second-choice, it really doesn't matter when all four candidates would make great coaches.  And he stayed tight-lipped throughout, which in the end is best for the Blue Jackets.

Scott Arniel: If you knew you weren't the top choice but badly wanted to coach the CBJ, would you (1) sulk and pass on a call from Scott Howson or (2) jump at the opportunity? Wisely, Arniel chose door number two and, in the process, made him a Columbus guy in a way that being the first choice could not have done. This man wants to be in Columbus. (And why wouldn't he?)

The CBJ blogging community: If you haven't been under a rock this off-season, you've noticed that the blogging community has been getting much better integrated.  We've built a community of knowledge that started with cross-links and quickly moved to the short-order, shared research project that was the Coaching Candidate Challenge. That's right, it took the blogosphere to do the legwork that helped tell the CBJ fan base about the four coaching prospects.  And it wasn't just one blog that did it all...there were a lot of us involved!

Rick Gethin: If you're the guy who writes what Puck Daddy calls "the definitive piece on Arniel," you're a winner. Rick - and The Hockey Writers - also wisely laid low during the entire process, letting the rest of us (major media included) spout off without knowing what we were really talking about. (Also, I now owe Rick an RBar pizza.  He bet on Arniel, I took the field.  Wise man, that Gethin...)

The Blue Jackets' blue line: I can't help but think that, with the exception of Kris Russell, they were panicking at the thought of being asked to implement Guy Boucher's manic scheme.  Arniel apparently likes his defense stout, which is more up our alley.

Steve Yzerman: He let Scott Howson do the legwork in extricating Guy Boucher's emotions from the Montreal organization and then struck at the eleventh hour. What an opportunist.

Jeff Little: More and more, Jeff is becoming the go-to man for perspective on what's really going on in the minds of the CBJ front office. His perspective on the coaching search also cooled the passions of many a CBJ fan throughout the process. Read his words carefully, folks, as there's a lot to what he says.

Claude Noel: A great coach, a classy guy and, in the end, a true company man. Some team is going to make him a permanent head coach someday, and they will be very, very happy that they did.  I'm genuinely sad that it didn't work out for him in Columbus.

Todd Sharrock: The CBJ PR chief finally can stop saying "No comment" in his sleep. Poor guy...this was a long process!

Losers after the fold....


Kevin Dineen: Quoting Puck Daddy, "Who does Kevin Dineen have to get Ulf Samuelsson to slash to get a gig around here?" He wasn't in Scott Howson's top two (and not in mine, either). [UPDATE: Light The Lamp has more gory details on Dineen.]

The Dispatch: The pontificating that Kevin Dineen was the odds-on favorite for the job (Arace, thou dost protest too much) only exposed how clueless they apparently were when it came to the goings-on at Blue Jackets HQ.  He was the third choice at best.  The Dispatch writers also had an incredible opportunity to fill the knowledge void about who these candidates were and - with the exception of a great piece on Boucher, which only demonstrated what could have been - they punted.  They're a technically strong group of reporters, as is evidenced by their strong work when the leaks started flowing, but the Dineen fixation combined with the lack of context for all of the candidates was not good at all.

Guy Boucher: There's a reasonable argument as to whether Boucher was right/classy/professional/proper in playing the Blue Jackets offer against what now appears to be the Montreal organization and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Some say "that's life," but I say it's negotiating in bad faith (unless Boucher was up front with his intentions with Howson, and we'll never know...).  Regardless, the fact that the Jackets were so tight-lipped  suggests that the leak of Howson's interviews and job offer did not come out of Columbus.  Montreal had no reason to publicize that they were getting played.  So I think it's safe to presume that it came from Boucher or his agent.  Stay classy, Guy.

Paul MacLean: Five initial candidates for the job, and you're the only one not to get to round two.  Can that be sugar-coated?  I say no.

The Columbus naysayers: As Ken Hitchock and Claude Noel demonstrated, the problems of last season were self-inflicted by a poor coach-team dynamic.  Hitch left, and the Jackets started winning again under Noel (with fewer and fewer veterans, remember).  This is not a roster in total disarray.  We've got the talent, we've got the facilities, we've got the management, we've got the fan base and now we appear to have the coach.  A couple smart acquisitions here and there, and we'll do more than our share of winning.  I firmly believe this point will be proven over the years ahead.

Me: Forget the amount of time that I invested on following this coaching search.  What kind of idiot posts "Winners and Losers" any more?  That's so 20th Century!  You'd think I would have printed this rant on PAPER!  At least I have a new blog banner...

[UPDATE: By request, let's add Doug MacLean to the list of losers.  Anyone who calls the Blue Jackets "idiots" if they don't hire Kevin Dineen (one of Dougie's original Blue Jackets - good times, good times...) deserves to be on the list.  Fortunately, that's all we in Columbus really heard from the Man Who Shares Eyeglass Styles With DBJ.]

That's my opinion.  What do you think?


  1. Where is Doug MacLean in the losers category? Someone needs to shut his donut hole.

  2. Oh crap, forgot about MacLean. Let me put something in on him.


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