Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson was interviewed on TSN 1050 in Toronto today. I’m a big believer in listening to what the people in authority are saying – their views shape the sport that we enjoy more than anyone else.
I strongly encourage you to listen to the 10+ minute podcast (Warning: You might have to scroll back a page or two to find it…TSN drops podcasts on their page at a fast clip) and hear what Howson has to say for yourself. If you don’t have time to do so, here’s my quick summary of Howson’s key points – and the interviewer was a little scattershot in his questioning, so bear with me:
- The biggest advantage of combine weekend is getting to know the prospects over 20-30 minute conversations.
- In the “best player” versus “most pressing need” draft debate, Howson – with such a high pick – believes the “best player” is the way to go.
- Howson doesn’t anticipate that the player drafted will play this year, hence “best player.”
- He acknowledges that pressure to turn the franchise around is increasing. ”It’s a critical year for our franchise. We have got to start showing our fans that we are heading in the right direction.”
- RE: Steve Mason and CBJ goaltending – “We have to change in net.” That will mean one or two new goalies. Howson intends to be active in free agency and/or trades to build up the goalie position.
- When asked about the likelihood of Rick Nash being a Blue Jacket at the start of training camp, he wouldn’t comment directly on any single player but emphasized that the Blue Jackets would explore any and all options to improve the team.
- Says he has talked with Nash “a number of times”. Talked to Nash’s agent two or three weeks ago. Nash is training at the team’s facility in Columbus.
- He would not offer comment on Nash budging from his position (submitting a list of ‘approved teams’ as is customary for those with a No Movement Clause in their contract) leading up the trade deadline.
- All-Star Game plans in Columbus: Exciting for the city, economic impact dramatic, attention for city and franchise is important.
- On challenges of marketing the CBJ in Columbus (interviewer referred to Columbus as a “college town”): Biggest challenge is having a successful product, and the franchise hasn’t been successful in the first ten years of its existence. Ohio State football attracts a lot of attention locally and is an “important piece of the fabric of the city, both economically and socially”. OSU is not competition but rather an asset.
- The announcer discussed rule changes to improve offensive output and how there has been a trend to adapt to these changes by blocking more shots. He asked Howson about whether the teams have an obligation to play entertaining hockey or just “win at all costs.” Howson replied that as custodians of the game, the managers and owners need to make sure that the NHL has an entertaining product. The players and the coaches, however, are there to win and he will not begrudge their working within the rules to win.
- On whether there is an increased pressure to make a move or two because of the turnarounds displayed by the likes of the LA Kings, who made the playoffs as an 8th seed and then made it to the finals: Howson acknowledged that getting into the playoffs then allows for anything to happen. He then said that while the Blue Jackets were 30th in the league, they aren’t “that far away”. Howson added that they want to win now but won’t trade the second overall pick for a 29-year-old who might be helpful for two or three years. Looking for people who will help right away as well as building for the future.
- On predicted rule changes in 2012-13: Rule changes (like hybrid icing) will more likely be tested in the American Hockey League. No dramatic rule changes in the NHL this season. The “hand on the puck” issue has been under discussion and might change.