Blue Jackets fire Scott Howson as GM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - One playoff appearance in more than five seasons wasn't good enough for Scott Howson to keep his job as Columbus Blue Jackets general manager.
Howson was fired Tuesday night by John Davidson, the club's director of hockey operations. Since his hiring last summer, Davidson, who rebuilt the St. Louis Blues, has become the man with the most power in the front office.
Davidson said before the season that the recent NHL lockout bought him time to evaluate the direction of the franchise. The Blue Jackets got off to a 4-7-2 start, and despite the team playing its best game of the season on Monday, Howson was let go less than 24 hours later.
"Scott Howson is a caring man who gave everything he had to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the past six years,'' Davidson said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision but one that I thought was in the best interest of moving our hockey club forward. I have enjoyed working with Scott and want to thank him for his service.''
Howson didn't immediately return a call to The Associated Press seeking comment.
The announcement came one day after the Blue Jackets beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Fourteen players had at least a point as Columbus scored as many goals Monday as the team had in its previous three games combined. And the Blue Jackets did it against the stingiest defense in the league.
Howson, a 52yearold Toronto native, was hired as executive vice president and general manager on June 15, 2007. He took the place of Doug MacLean, who had guided the franchise from its inception, through its first NHL season in 2000-01 and the next five campaigns.
Howson spent most of his playing career in the minors but played 18 games with the New York Islanders in the mid-1980s. After retiring in 1986, he went to law school and then spent seven years in the front office of the Edmonton Oilers.
He oversaw a resurgence of the Blue Jackets in the 2008-09 season, when they went a franchise-best 41-31-10 and made the playoffs with star forward Rick Nash and Calder Trophy-winning goalie Steve Mason leading the way.
But the club then fell on hard times, and last season went an NHL-worst 29-46-7.
The club was rocked midway through the season when Howson revealed that Nash, the team captain, had approached him in January asking to be traded. Howson later said he spoke with the 29 other teams before finally dealing Nash, a minor league defenseman and a conditional third-round pick to the New York Rangers last summer for forwards Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky, 21-year-old defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick.
The success of that deal will ultimately be Howson's legacy in Columbus.
Before this season, Howson said the Blue Jackets might have trouble scoring but he had confidence that the defense - with the acquisition of defensemen Jack Johnson and Adrian Aucoin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky - would be vastly improved.
"We're going to have to score by committee,'' Howson said. "Some of our offense is going to have to come from our defense again. That's how we're going to do it. We're all focused on making sure that first and foremost we're better defensively.''
The Blue Jackets won their opener, 3-2 in a shootout at Nashville, and earned another point in their second game. But they lost eight of 10 games before Monday night's victory.
Columbus will begin a six-game, Western trip on Friday at defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles.
Davidson was asked before the season started how the team might fare without Nash and with a mixture of older players (Aucoin, forward Vinny Prospal) and several youngsters, who had yet to prove themselves.
"It's all about evolution,'' he said before the opener. "We want a team concept, a team effort, team energy, team commitment. We want a team that's going to stick together, that's going to be a heavy team to play against. That's where we're going.''
The Blue Jackets have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap