Dear Mr. Howson,
I'm just your average Blue Jackets fan. I manage to find the money to attend five - ten games a year. The rest I watch on tv or listen to on the stream on the team website. I subscribe to a few blogs about the team in my RSS reader. And I have to say that I am starting to lose interest in the team. Let me tell you why.
You see, I've been through NHL expansion twice, now. First as a young boy, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area with the San Francisco/California (Golden) Seals and, now, with the Jackets. When you came in to take over for a certain former GM who shall remain nameless, I took the attitude of thinking about the Jackets as another expansion team because you had to clean up the mess left by said former GM. Therefore, I was willing to be patient as you rebuilt the team. My patience is running out and the reason is Scott Arniel.
You've done your job. There is more talent on the Jackets' roster and in Springfield than has ever been accumulated by the Jackets. You went out and acquired Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. When Huselius injured himself in rehab, you signed Vinny Prospal (One of your best moves!). All of which had me looking forward to an interesting season.
I wasn't one of those hyped up types who, after those acquisitions, started thinking play-offs. Oh, I hoped for them, but all I really wanted was for the Jackets to be playing meaningful games at the end of the season. You know, simple improvement, nothing more.
Mr. Howson, the Jackets aren't playing meaningful games now and it isn't even Christmas, yet. Cite injuries, suspensions, slumps and off-seasons, if you wish. It means nothing. Stanley Cup winning teams have those same problems and cope. Every team deals with injuries, suspensions, etc. So, I will not accept those as an excuse.
Cite building chemistry, if you wish. It rings hollow. We're more than three months into the season. Surely more than enough time to build chemistry. Besides, everyone expected some struggles early in the season.
You have been saying that it's up to the players to raise their level of play. Okay, that is valid. Yet, Mr. Howson, who is responsible for inspiring players to raise their level of play? Captain Rick Nash? Jeff Carter? Antoine Vermette? No, it is the responsibility of the head coach and Scott Arniel has failed in that responsibility.
Let's be honest about Scott Arniel, other than last September, October and early November, his record is abysmal. I haven't checked, but I would not be surprised to learn that Dave King had a better record through the same point of his second year with the team and he was leading an expansion team which didn't have one-tenth the talent Arniel has had.
Then, there is Arniel's very suspect roster decisions. What is Max Mayorov doing in Springfield after the pre-season he had? Why were Cody Bass and Alexander Giroux ever on the team? What are Dane Byers and Aaron Johnson doing the team, now? Mr. Howson, there is a reason certain players are lifetime AHLers/borderline NHLers.
Next is Arniel's lines. Which I don't understand in the least. Sometimes, I wonder if he has a sheet of paper tacked to his office wall with all the forwards' names on it and selects his lines by throwing darts at said sheet of paper. I swear, I could get roaring drunk and pick better lines than he does.
And what about ice time. Why is a grinder like Derek Dorsett leading the team in ice team? Even above team superstar, captain and "face of them team" Rick Nash. Why are talented youngsters like Ryan Johanson and John Moore playing 10 minutes of less a night? Remember how you once said that one of the reasons Hitchcock had to go was that he didn't play younger players enough? What's changed?
This season is a total write off, Mr. Howson. Everyone knows that. Just as everyone - Except, it seems, you. - knows that the primary cause is Scott Arniel. But what should worry you (And is certainly on the minds of your bosses, Mike Priest and J. P. McConnell.) is that you are in danger of losing your fan base. Just how long do you think we fans will put up with continual losing before we simply don't care, anymore?
Next season starts now! For the sake of the team, the fans and your own job, fire Scott Arniel and bring in a coach who can nurture the talent you've acquired and take this team to the next level.