On February 11, 1998, John H. McConnell’s Columbus Blue Jackets hired Doug MacLean as the team’s general manager (and eventually made him team president). In three years of coaching the Florida Panthers, he never missed the playoffs and reached the Stanley Cup Finals once. MacLean also had the pedigree of working in the Detroit Red Wings organization, serving as both an assistant coach for the Wings and as general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate. Through the lens of the day, I consider MacLean to be a solid – if not great – hire.
On November 22, 2006, McConnell hired Stanley Cup winning coach Ken Hitchcock to be the Blue Jackets’ bench boss. Hitchcock had missed the playoffs only once in the nine full seasons that he had coached prior to coming to Columbus. He piloted his team to the conference finals four times, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals twice. In his introductory press conference, McConnell referred to Hitchcock as “The guy we hope is going to save us.” Another great hire.
On June 15, 2007, the Blue Jackets hired Scott Howson as the team’s general manager. The assistant general manager of an Edmonton Oilers team that roared out of the 2004-05 lockout with an appearance in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. A recent Hockey News editorial referred to Howson as one of the leagues bright minds when he was hired. Looking again through the lens of June 2007, this was a strong hire.
Entering the 2011-12 season, the John P. McConnell Blue Jackets not only were considered a “salary cap team” as opposed to a “salary budget team” – the first time the team’s payroll approached the salary cap – they had the third highest payroll in the National Hockey League!
And now, on October 24, 2012, the Blue Jackets created a new position, “President of Hockey Operations”, and filled it with John Davidson. I’ve been impressed with Davidson since the moment that I started researching his record with the St. Louis Blues. The press conference video (courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets) is at the top of this post. I consider this a great hire, as do a host of respected NHL leaders and writers.
There’s plenty of talk about Davidson and what he will bring to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Not a huge fan of this type of open-ended speculation, I personally will wait and see how he brings himself to bear on a club that is hoping to find itself in the (someday!) upcoming season.
That said, there’s one aspect of this hire that requires no speculation. Once again, the Blue Jackets have stepped up, opened the organizational wallet and made what appears to be a very strong acquisition for the organization. I don’t wear blinders – history has not treated the Columbus Blue Jackets kindly, nor has every one of those once-fine decisions played out well over time – but there’s no denying that this team and its ownership have made repeated commitments to do what it takes to win. If they don’t win, it’s not because they’re not trying.
This fan respects those commitments and, through them, finds hope for a bright future for the Columbus Blue Jackets. I hope you do, too.