Perhaps this announcement was considered inevitable but certainly its time came at as a surprise, Scott Howson was released as the Columbus Blue Jackets’ general manager per club president of Hockey Operations John Davidison via a news release Tuesday evening.
Howson replaced then general manager and team president Doug MacLean after the 2006-07 season. Howson came from the Edmonton organization where he was the assistant general manager.
Why some might consider this announcement inevitable? In October, the Blue Jackets brought in Davidson to lead hockey operations. Davidson’s hiring was given the thumbs up by team owner John P. McConnell, president Mike Priest, and Howson himself. The move meant that Davidson would have to rubber stamp any move Howson make.
“Howson is a caring man who gave everything he had to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the past six years,” said Davidson 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.”
Though it may have spelled the beginning to the end of Howson’s reign as club general manager, he was fully supportive of Davidson’s hiring in October though Davidson’s arrival acted as a de facto demotion.
“This is all about the Columbus Blue Jackets getting better,” Howson said in October. “John makes us better. I have always had someone over me. Whether it be Mike Priest or John P. (McConnell), they are still going to be over me with John now but this just makes us better.”
“Scott is the ultimate professional and ultimate team player,” Priest said in October.
Howson took over a struggling franchise in 2007 and within two years, delivered the club’s first and only playoff appearance. Rather than making sweep changes within the franchise, Howson showed faith in the team’s coach and franchise player. He inherited one of the NHL’s elite coaches in Ken Hitchcock who MacLean hired in his waning days as GM.
He also showed loyalty to then leading scorer Rick Nash who he would later sign to an eight-year contract extension. Like MacLean, Howson also thought highly of young Steve Mason. In early 2008-09, Mason took the reins of the franchise’s goalie.
But it turns out a series of moves ultimately led to Howson’s demise.
Following the team’s playoff appearance in 2009, Howson resigned Nash to the aforementioned contract. He also let veterans Michael Peca, Manny Malhotra, and Jason Williams walk via free agency. Later in 2009, he traded Jason Chimera to Washington for Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark, both players ended up being busts.
The new look Blue Jackets in 2009-10 could not capture the magic the squad found the year before. Midway through the season, Howson dismissed Hitchcock from his coaching duties, a move that stunned the hockey world.
Following a sophomore slump, Howson gave Mason a contract extension. He also signed American Hockey League coach Scott Arniel. Both could not live up to their promise.
Arniel at times looked overwhelmed by the task of leading the Blue Jackets in his first season after a successful 14-6 start to his tenure.
Desperate for change, Howson made major changes to the franchise in the summer of 2011. Seeking a top center for Nash, Howson orchestrated a trade with Philadelphia for center Jeff Carter. The experiment did not last long as Carter was traded to Los Angeles four days before the 2012 trade deadline.
After three losing seasons in Columbus following his contract extension, Nash demanded Howson to trade him. Howson obliged by trading him to New York for three players and a first-round pick.
After Todd Richards replaced Scott Arniel at the start of the 2013 season, the Blue Jackets got off to another bad start with a 4-7-2 record. This lack of success led Davidson to dismiss Howson.
Howson’s career record was 173-190-59.