One of the recent themes around the NHL has been asking if some of the league's GMs whose teams are on the bubble might have a chance to save their jobs by a strong performance at the trade deadline. Dean Lombardi, in particular, appears to be in a position where it's playoffs (and a strong playoff performance, at that), or he could well be on his way out the door.
So, what can we say about Scott Howson?
By all reckoning, the GM had a fantastic offseason, marked by aggressive, decisive moves to add what he (and the fans) thought were the pieces to make the Jackets into a playoff caliber team. His only major mis-step was the decision to put his major faith in Steve Mason - and even then he certainly could not have anticipated the spate of injuries to Mark Dekanich.
During the season itself, there's a mixed bag to consider. On the one hand, Howson made roster adjustments, including the deal for Nikita Nikitin and acquiring Mark Letestu and Colton Gillies, all of whom have made solid impacts for the team.
On the other hand, his decision to keep Scott Arniel in the front office, and his statements that coaching was not the issue appear increasingly foolish given the marked improvement of the team under interim coach Todd Richards.
Outside of Columbus, Howson's work to rebuild the prospect pipeline seems to have reached a midpoint - the development of players like Cam Atkinson, David Savard, and John Moore a promising hint of the future, but much of the team's defensive depth and other high-value prospects like Matt Calvert, Allen York, and Maksim Mayorov appear to have stalled out.
If Scott Howson can swallow his pride and trade players like Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette, Sammy Pahlsson, and of course, Rick Nash, he will be dismantling a team he built - but for the right return, a truly remarkable product might emerge.
With some of the rumored packages floating around for the larger pieces on the block, we could see a Blue Jackets team with an upgraded defense, a new starting goaltender, and a talented young forward corps headlined by the first overall pick in this year's draft. If Richards is retained as head coach, they could provide an excellent group to play the style of hockey he has found success with in Nationwide Arena.
So, would it be enough to allow Howson to continue, or is he destined for the door regardless of his efforts?