What moves can we expect from the Jackets' front office now that John Davidson has been hired as team president?
I had almost forgotten what it felt like to hear good news when it comes to the Jackets.
It was confirmed today that John Davidson, formerly of the St.Louis Blues, was hired by Columbus to take over as team president, allowing Mike Priest to focus on the business side of the franchise. Adding Davidson to the front office adds credibility, experience and media savvy.
With the signing all but official, the question becomes what next?
It's been reported that General Manager Scott Howson, Senior Advisor Craig Patrick and assistant General Manager Chris MacFarland are going to remain with the team, for now.
Davidson was hired by the Blues back in 2006. Over the next four years he made a handful of moves to bulk up the front office. He hired Doug Armstrong after he was fired by the Dallas Stars, with the intent on him working in a support capacity until then-GM Larry Pleau retired. Two years later, Pleau stepped down as GM, but Davidson kept him on board in an advisory role, which he still holds today. Armstrong remains the Blues GM, while Kevin MacDonald has been the assistant GM since 2009. Similar to MacFarland with the Jackets, MacDonald operates the team's AHL franchise.
In 2010, Davidson made another move- this time adding former Kings GM Dave Taylor to the front office. He spent a couple of years as Director of Player Personnel before his promotion of VP of Hockey Operations with the Blues this year. Former VP of Hockey Ops Al MacInnis was moved to a senior advisor role. MacInnis was one of Davidson's first hires, back in November of 2006.
Aside from Brian Burke of the Leafs, who needs a front office staff member for everything from Senior Email Reader to Executive VP of refilling the K-Cup carousel, the Blues had one of the largest, most experienced, not to mention expensive front offices in the league.
The Blues were dead last before JD was hired and bulked up the hockey brain trust. Since then, the Blues have returned to their winning ways, and have earned a reputation as a well-run franchise.
I wonder now, will Davidson make similar moves to when he took over the Blues?
Larry Pleau had already been with the Blues for many years, but JD retained him with the organization. I'm sure that Howson will be evaluated, but he stands as good a chance as Pleau did to remain with the team. I'm of the opinion that Howson is not a poor GM, he has made some great moves (especially with trades) and adding JD will only improve Howson's track record and he'll be that much better with more people offering opinion. Rather than move Howson (or fire him) I think he'll be retained. What the Jackets don't have, is the luxury of keeping a guy like Pleau around. More on that in a moment.
JD's move to hire Dave Taylor mirrors the Jackets' addition of Craig Patrick. Both were former GMs and are well-respected around the league. Unless there is some underlying personal or professional hurdles between JD and Patrick, I think it would be wise to keep both men on staff. The Jackets currently don't have a VP of Hockey Operations, giving Patrick that title and the stability that comes with it would be a wise move.
Howson and Armstrong. Check. Patrick and Taylor. Check. Where the teams differ are in the cases of Pleau and Al MacInnis. The Jackets don't have an equivalent to either of those gentlemen in the front office at the moment. Another senior voice to look over the scouting departments and to voice his opinion in the team's war room (Pleau) and a former player with a winning background and ties to the city (MacInnis) would complete a new look front office under Davidson. Will he make these moves?
If he wants a former player to act in an advisory role a la MacInnis in St.Louis, I have a few guys in mind. One would be Jody Shelley. Granted, he's still an active player, but the lockout may hurt his ability to find a team. Also, who knows if he's front office material. That said, he'll be welcomed back with open arms. Andrew Cassels has been involved in coaching, but he is another former player with local ties. A player from outside the organization could fit the bill as well.
As for the Pleau equivalent, that may prove to be a tall order. Finding an out-of-work former exec to join a group of wily veterans in the CBJ front office isn't something for a guy who wants GM autonomy. If there is a guy out there who fits the bill, and JD uses the same template he used in St.Louis, it will be interesting to see who rounds out the brain trust.
The JD signing may only be the beginning of a larger front office shuffle.