A lot has been said about the events of the past few days
Rightfully so, no doubt. But sometimes, it's lack of foresight and hindsight that alienate some people from others--those who are quick to judge the decisions of a man far more educated in the subject matter.
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson isn't a first-timer at this, people. He's been in hockey for over two decades, and spent the past seven years in a market of nearly identical financial parameters. Being the right-hand man to a colorful and bold executive such as Kevin Lowe certainly didn't hinder Howson's growth in the field, and it showed in radiant colors Tuesday afternoon.
There needs to be a reality check.
After Wednesday night, the Blue Jackets have 17 games remaining. To have a slim chance at the final playoff spot, they would need somewhere in the neighborhood of 93-95 points, or 14 wins. A pace like that is more than likely insurmountable, especially including four games against the Detroit Red Wings.
In a realist's world, it's not likely.
True to his word, Howson had a plan.
He executed it as intended, solely to benefit the team now and most importantly, for the future. When we hear the word "future," most assume it to mean three years down the road. In the Blue Jackets' case, the future is in a few months at the NHL draft, and further, into free agency.
With two first-round picks in arguably the deepest draft in years, Howson has a handful of attractive assets to package in a trade. The possibility is there for a trade to acquire a top-line center such as Patrick Marleau (who WILL be on the block this summer) or Olli Jokinen. Any GM not willing to listen to an offer including a first-round pick, possibly two, is a fool.
Sergei Fedorov was going to be dealt regardless of the team's position. The fans had to be aware of this, knowing of his contract status, and the fact that he isn't getting any younger. Howson's plan is clearly cut to go with youth and supply a veteran presence accordingly. Smart GMs do that, and he fits the label.
Ted Ruth was a target of the Blue Jackets at last summer's draft, and Howson wanted him. The Capitals took him one slot ahead of Columbus, and Howson selected defenseman Will Weber. Ruth won't be a part of this team for a couple of years, but he is certainly a player with a very positive upside and is highly regarded. It is safe to say that Howson got the most out of Fedorov--he would've been lucky to get a second-rounder out of him.
Why not trade Michael Peca? What about Ron Hainsey?
Very simple. The intent of the Blue Jackets was not to blow the team up. Howson knew that if he acquired Brad Richards, he was adding a key piece to his team that would greatly improve their chances to sneak into the postseason. See: Richards' five assists in his Dallas debut playing with Nik Hagman and Antti Miettinen. Not exactly Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev--the guy can flat out play.
Had he dealt Peca and Hainsey, there would be no glue to hold the team together for the balance of the year. Further, it would have demolished coach Ken Hitchcock’s ability to sell his philosophy and continue to drill his fundamentals into the younger players. That falls into the hands of the leaders, and without Foote or Fedorov around, Peca will be looked upon to lead the team going forward.
Hainsey likely didn't draw very attractive offers. He's still young, an impending UFA, and a moderate offensive contributor to a horrible offensive team. The Blue Jackets want to retain him, and they should. He is growing under Hitchcock, and his offensive game will see marked improvement if top-end talent is brought in this summer. He's no Brian Campbell, but his contract demands (likely between $2-3.5 million per season) won't be on the same continent as Campbell, who is seeking up to $7 million per season. Just not worth it.
Peca will be re-signed, you can bet on that
. Howson and the coaching staff have raved all season about his intangible leadership qualities, and the experience of being a captain and leading a team in the playoffs is irreplacebale. Fredrik Modin has been there, but he's not near the leadership level that Peca is.
Who is your captain next year? If Peca stays, I'd say he's the likely choice. Rick Nash isn't ready, and judging from his comments in the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday, even he doubts his ability to be the captain right now. Maybe in two years, but not now Rick.
To those who have harshly criticized the decisions of Howson recently: step back from the ledge, take a deep breath and take your PSL renewal form out of the shredder. He did what is best for the franchise now and going forward, and if you wanted him to break the bank (hello, Pittsburgh) for a top-flight scorer, than maybe you are the one that doesn't want the best for your team.
Think about it. Maybe once, possibly twice. The Blue Jackets' future is in good hands, and the fruits of Howson's management skills will be seen in due time.