Monday, March 17, 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes

 A must read for any hockey fan is Gare Joyce's 'Future Greats and Heartbreaks' a look at scouting and the NHL draft from within an NHL organization. Joyce was embedded with Columbus for a year and his stories about the process are fascinating. Phil Kessel's interview, the preferential treatment given to London stars Pat Kane and Sam Gagner (perhaps explaining the latter's coasting through his career in Edmonton so far when it comes to the more difficult parts of his job), the silk scarves favoured by Tom Renney - these are amongst the interesting stories that Joyce tells but my favourite stories are about the man who agreed to allow him in on the process, Doug MacLean.

 MacLean is an Island good old boy, the same as good old boys from everywhere,a grinning, handshaking, story telling salesman. When MacLean is fired at the end of the book his replacement, Scott Howson, is described as 'quiet, keeps to himself, the anti-MacLean'. Howson may have been the 'anti-MacLean' in temperament but when it came to hockey management the two were cut from the same cloth although to be fair to Howson the team he left Jarmo Kekalainen is poised to make the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history this spring. In contrast to the Jackets their sister franchise, the Minnesota Wild have four playoff appearances, a fifth coming, two series victories which led to a spot in the conference finals and a division title.

 The Jackets have nothing.

Columbus Blue Jackets (2001-2013)

Length - 12 seasons

Losing Seasons - 10

Bottom Five In the League - 5

Last Overall - 1

Worst Season - 2011/2012 with 29 wins for 65 points

Playoff Appearances - 1

Playoff Wins - 0

Weirdness - That there is a team in Columbus at all. One of the goalies they selected in the expansion draft, Dwayne Roloson, signed with an AHL team rather than with the BJs. Doug MacLean was their GM and he's horrible

The Good - The BJs nabbed Rick Nash with the first overall pick in 2002.

The Bad - The BJs drafted in the top eight nine years in a row. Besides Nash they selected Rusty Klesla, Pascal Leclaire, Nikolai Zherdev, Alex Picard, Gilbert Brule, Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov.

The Bad - Nash asked to be traded.

The Bad - Howson traded Voracek and another top pick to Philly for Jeff Carter. The Flyers picked Sean Couturier. Carter pouted his way out of Columbus within months.

The Worse - The return for Carter - Jack Johnson.

The End Game - The Jackets almost made the playoffs last season and are in good shape to make it this season. Young centre Ryan Johansen looks like a star in the making. While the team remains weirdly anonymous (try and name a half dozen players on their roster) it seems that the franchise has finally turned the corner.

Why They Aren't Ranked Higher - They were bad but their badness was more of an anonymous mediocrity than a truly disastrous run. Always bad but not bad enough to get those lottery picks (which in itself is a form of badness of course). Plus the team stayed put.

What We Learned - Again, drafting and development (Brule, for example, was rushed into the NHL) trumps all.

The hockey business is an incestuous old boys' club. MacLean was a disaster as a GM and yet now works in hockey media. Of course this tells you all you need to know about hockey media and Rogers specifically, a guy with a big mouth and no sense is front and centre on their broadcasts.

 And meanwhile the second architect of the Blue Jackets' sorry history was hired almost immediately by the Edmonton Oilers, who are working hard to move up this list and catch these guys.



Mr DeBakey said...

And meanwhile the second architect of the Blue Jackets' sorry history was hired almost immediately by the Edmonton Oilers

To be fair to Howsen
He made some good progress with that team
But then tried to speed up the process and it all went bad.

That Maclean - HOPELESS!
And now he shapes people's opinions about today's game from coast to coast.

To paraphrase Jim Boutin
Hockey is an ass.

Doogie2K said...

Let's see...

Nathan Horton
Matt Frattin?
Um...those guys from the Rangers from the Nash trade? Dubinsky was one, right?
Jack Johnson
Is Jan Hejda still there?

Fuck, you're right.