Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Howson Era Ends: No Pleasure, But A Bit Less Pain

It was a day I think we all knew was coming.

We just didn't know when.

However, the ax has fallen for Scott Howson, and the only thing surprising about it is the apparent randomness of the timing.

Looking back at when the Jackets hired John Davidson as president of Hockey Operations, the writing was on the wall: Accountability -- true accountability -- was about to come to the Blue Jackets' front office. Scott Howson would actually have to answer to an actual hockey executive, and not just some executive. He would not be able to make another move without Davidson's say-so.

That say-so apparently meant the next move will involve a couple boxes.

All snark aside, however, let's be clear. I am not dancing a jig on Howson's pink slip. That's a seriously cold thing to do. I don't doubt Howson put in the effort, and the guy losing his job is incredibly unfortunate.

However, if the Jackets are ever going to establish that "culture of winning," this had to happen.

It needed to. This could not be allowed to continue.

Is Howson a scapegoat for the Jackets' overall subpar, inconsistent performance? To a point, absolutely.

However, much of this hell was of his own creation. He did put together this team. He did re-sign "core" guys to ridiculous amounts of money. Hell, Derek Dorsett made a fine argument for team MVP last year as a freakin' bottom-six forward (got my vote, anyway), while he so-called "scorers" struggled. Sellers at the deadline again, blah blah blah.

I held out on the calls for Howson's head as long as I could, but I just couldn't keep it up. The public relations fustercluck that was the Rick Nash saga clinched it all. It immediately reduced the potential return for Nash, destroyed good will, and embarrassed this team and its fans... and during a year when the on-ice results were embarrassing enough.

However, playing a game of All Your Sins Remembered solves nothing. It also doesn't give a complete picture of Howson's tenure. Despite seeming to have a vision with no concrete plan to execute it at times, Howson did manage to clean up the horrid mess that Doug MacLean left him and get the team better in the short term. He took some lemons and made lemonade.

The problem was that once fans see that short-term success, the pressure's on to keep it up... and that long-term plan never seemed to come together.

In the end, being a step above Doug MacLean is not a long-term plan. I'm not even sure that counts as a decent goal.

So who's next? Supposedly, the Jackets are already close to naming someone, per Aaron Portzline at the Dispatch. Seems awfully quick for something that Davidson told Porty he had been considering in recent days. Still... can't hurt to have a guy in place.

Will it mean the transformation that the Jackets and their fans sorely need? Who knows?

All we know is that the Jackets' new direction officially starts now. Whatever your sentiments are toward Howson and what his tenure meant to this team, this had to be done, and it's time to embrace what's coming.

Because a lot of us... well...

...we asked for it.

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