Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A tale of two letters

Two franchises were born out of the same NHL expansion year (2000).

One franchise's owner wrote this to his team's fans on January 27:

January 27, 2012

Dear [DBJ],

My father held a longstanding belief that a major league sports franchise would prove an important catalyst in the growth and development of Columbus. After more than 30 years of effort, the opportunity to make his belief reality presented itself with the NHL awarding a franchise to Columbus in 1997. To my mind, it is clear he was right in his vision. With the Blue Jackets and the Arena as the anchor, Nationwide Insurance has brought vibrancy to our downtown in the Arena District that simply wouldn't have happened without the team.

That said, there is no question our on-ice performance is nowhere near what it needs to be. All of you are disappointed and many are angry. I and the entire Blue Jackets organization share these feelings. I thought as we approached mid-season at the All-Star break, it would be a good time to reflect on where we've been and offer some thoughts about how we go forward. We have taken actions and will continue our push to improve.

Toward the end of last season, we did a thorough evaluation of our team's strengths and weaknesses. From there, a plan was developed balancing our needs against our tradable assets. During the summer, we believed we executed the plan well and took a good step forward. Most people seemed to agree and we were excited for the season to start.

Unfortunately and surprisingly, we opened the season terribly and have struggled ever since. Disappointing is not a strong enough word.

We began looking at why our team was not performing at an acceptable level very early this season and assessing where we are and where we want to go. We added Craig Patrick, an experienced and highly respected figure in the hockey community, as a senior advisor to assist in this endeavor. While this process is not complete, we have clearly defined our options and are finalizing our plans.

I understand you want to know what we're going to do to fix this, but it is important for us to maintain a degree of discretion to prevent putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage. I can tell you action will be taken in the coming weeks and months, be it around the trade deadline, the entry draft and/or free agency that will be indicative of our direction.

Our goal as an organization is to build a team that wins consistently and competes for the Stanley Cup. Anything less is unacceptable! Everything we do in the coming weeks, months and years will be done to that end and everyone in our organization - myself, management, staff, coaches and players - will be held to that standard.

I am very thankful and appreciative of the dedication and passion you have shown as a Blue Jackets fan and I am committed to giving you a team of which you can be proud.


John P. McConnell

Today, the other franchise's owner wrote this to his team's fans:

July 4, 2012

An Open Letter to the Fans of the State of Hockey:

It seems like yesterday, but it was more than 4 years ago that I bought the Minnesota Wild. I came to the State of Hockey with high hopes and big dreams. I knew all about the loyal fan base and the remarkable support here in Minnesota. I felt the team had a solid roster and we were coming off of two straight playoff appearances and the franchise’s first-ever Northwest Division Championship. The future looked bright.

Long story, short…things didn’t work out the way I expected. Issues in and out of our control went south, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge we have struggled. We made some difficult changes throughout the organization and I’ve had ample opportunity to work on a couple of skills we all need in life…patience and humility.

Like you, I’ve been disappointed with our results the past few seasons. But, at the same time I saw some hope emerging. I am extremely proud of the work Chuck Fletcher and his staff has done to build perhaps the very best group of young prospects in the NHL today. Those of you who follow us closely know all about the likes of Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, and Jason Zucker among others. Those players represent the bright future of our franchise and it’s been proven time and time again that drafting and developing young talent is the most reliable path to sustained playoff success.

Having said that, when the season ended in April, I found myself wondering, perhaps as you did, how long that process might take and how we could accelerate it. To Chuck’s credit, he had an ambitious plan and today’s announcement of the signing of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter marks the culmination of that plan. We now have the two most coveted free agents in the NHL to add to our veteran core, led by our captain Mikko Koivu, and our acclaimed class of young prospects. Sounds pretty good to me.

As Chuck has said, this is a rare opportunity to bring two players of this caliber, both in the prime of their careers, to our franchise. I want to thank Zach, Ryan and their respective agents/advisors for their decisions in our favor. I know they both had numerous, attractive offers (some higher than ours). I also want to thank Chuck and his staff for their creativity, vision and earnest pursuit of these players. We are obviously thrilled with this outcome.

Finally and most importantly, I felt like we had a “secret weapon” working in our favor during these negotiations…the spirit and dedication of you fans of the State of Hockey. It’s no secret that both Zach and Ryan have strong ties to this area. They’ve had first-hand experience with the extraordinary pride and unrelenting passion of our fans. Ultimately, I firmly believe that you fans were the deciding factor in their decision and so my final “thank you” is reserved for you.

Now, the real proof will come when we hit the ice this season. But, I am confident that we have taken a huge step forward today. It’s high time that the fans of the State of Hockey are rewarded with playoff success. I can’t wait…oh yeah, that patience thing again!


Craig Leipold

What I'd give to get a letter like Wild fans got today.

Lest you think otherwise, I'm not upset that the Blue Jackets didn't land either player. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have either guy playing for the CBJ. I just can't be upset at them for taking the money they got to play in front of friends and family.

I'm upset that the Blue Jackets do not appear to be in the conversation for these types of free agent players.


  1. DBJ:

    Great post! You sure know how to connect with the Jackets fan-base.

    It stung when I found out that Minnesota had landed both the top free agents. I wondered how the heck they got it done and why couldn't we be courting players at that level. Good for them but it sucks for us. However, the letter from Mac Jr isn't too bad at all. The issue is that none of that has translated into results!

    And, yes, it would have been lovely to have received the second letter (from Minnesota owner) as it spells out a clear vision and shows results.

    Doktor Z

  2. The way I see it is the answer MUST be in the room. Why else would the GM of the mighty CBJ not be out throwing down successful offers to all the big free agents? Besides we'll be so much stronger having to play against Rick Nash rather than with him. Scott the great knows what he is doing here. Oh wait I guess I should retract that free agent quip as we got 2000 year old Acoin to come here for a paltry 2 mil. Yeah our franchise is every bit as strong as Minn or all the other teams. Look out Detroit....this will be the year. What I see is a GM in so deep and over his head that nothing will get us out of the basement. As long as Mason is in this franchise we are doomed. That includes our AHL and ECHL affiliates. Name ANY other GM that would do what we are doing with him? Rereading that letter and comparing to the Wild letter make me Ill. Just look at the teams that missed the playoffs last year and the changes that they made and compare to us. Howson is delusional if he thinks a couple tweaks will put us more than 5 games better and then subtract your biggest threat. Our group of forwards is the weakest in the history of the franchise. Our savior is an unproven defenseman that doesn't play much defense and talks a good story so the people of Cbus want to declare him not only the next captain but our super hero. The hero got tossed from his team last year and they net on to win the cup with our trash.... Catching castoffs might help the bottom line and make the GM look good to the bean counters, but it's never going to produce a winner. Throwing unproven youth to the wolves makes the bean counters happy but it won't make us a winner. What will make us a winner? At this point I don't know as this franchise has so beaten me down that I'm just about to say I just don't care.
    I guess it's not a lie if the owner makes the statements and the GM makes no viable changes. All the fanboys can go back to telling each other how great our youth is again....

  3. As a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Wild,July 4th of 2012 will go down as a very special day,but I do not believe for a moment that this would;ve happened had the 2 FA's on question (a) were not good friends who decided they wanted to play together,and (b) one of the 2 men in question just so happened to have grown up in this community. We were fortunate for once,and it could turn into a watershed moment for the franchise,but it's not as if it's been a bed of roses around the Twin Cities since the Wild brought the NHL back to the area. Our 'Rick Nash,' Marion Gaborik,left the team,and was allowed to do so for zero compensation. The previous management was absolutely clueless on assembling or drafting talent,instead relying on a defensive-minded coach to lead a mediocre team to overachieve for years. In the end,this tactic was exposed for the failure it always was when Lemaire resigned as coach,and the franchise was left talent-starved and with the worst feeder system in the NHL.
    That being said,the new ownership group has been as big a positive as their predecessors were a negative, starting with judging talent,converting that assembled talent into the second highest talent pool in the NHL, and shaking up the status quo through trades. Not all were successful(Nick Leddy to the Hawks for Cam Barker???) but it didn't stop the team from trying to improve themselves,and that effort was rewarded yesterday,partly by luck,partly by effort.
    Things may be bleak in Columbus today,but I see the Jackets not unlike the Wilds position of a few short years ago. You still have a huge blue chip in Nash,and that can be converted into a nucleus that can establish success for years to come. Things can turn around,franchises can reinvent themselves. Keep the faith,keep having hope,and best of luck to the Blue Jackets in the future.

  4. strong conviction, nameless man.

  5. Anon. means never having to claim responsibility, I'm not a kool-aid sipper, but, I'd rather have 25 guys who profess to WANT to be here than 15 who are playing hard and 10 "just following the money". I admit to running VERY LOW on patience, but, as a fan of the home team, I'm not giving up yet. All I ask; if nash is dead set on leaving, make it on YOUR terms not his, and PLEASE!!!!!!!!!! NOT TO DETROIT!!!!!!!!!!!


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