With the hiring of John Davidson as President of Hockey Operations, General Manager Scott Howson was put in a lame duck situation. Today, he was relieved of his duties as General Manager.
It ends a pitiful stretch where the Jackets made the playoffs just once, and were consistently at or near the bottom of the NHL standings. After initial success with the playoff year and Calder trophy season by Steve Mason, Howson hedged his bets that the playoff lineup was close to being a contender year-in and year-out. This would prove to be a major miscalculation, as Mason's game has taken a flaming nosedive, and the lineups he has assembled have struggled mightily.
In addition to the rosters performing poorly, you can point to the draft as a failure under his tenure. Though the scouting staff is more to blame, the GM has input into the direction and planning for each draft.
Howson's first coaching hire was a complete disaster, as Scott Arniel was in way over his head, and has since been replaced by Todd Richards. Arniel was hired after Ken Hitchcock, currently the top dog in St.Louis, was unceremoniously given his walking papers.
The backbreaker for Howson was having to deal with the nightmare that was the Rick Nash trade request. It is a lose-lose situation for a GM when his star player asks for a trade, as the player's value is reduced due to the public nature of the beast, and rarely is that GM able to pull off the best possible deal.
That said, I believe that Howson did a good job of acquiring assets for Nash. Early assessments on the return for Nash are positive, with Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon all contributing and playing well for Columbus.
It wasn't all bad. Howson pulled off some decent trades, which one can dismiss as irrelevant due to the team's lack of success, but nonetheless they made the team better. He swung for the fences last season with the Jeff Carter trade and James Wisniewski signing, and though it led to more disastrous results, the man went all-in to make the team better and has to be commended for that.
The Howson era is over, and will be remembered for the team's only playoff birth, more poor drafting, and the drama surrounding the trades of Carter and Nash. It remains to be seen if a new GM is hired, or if Senior Advisor Craig Patrick takes over. Ditto for Assistant GM Chris MacFarland. The guess here is that for the rest of this season the duo of Davidson and Patrick runs the show, and a third member of Hockey Operations is added to the staff this offseason.
EDIT: The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that a deal with Howson's replacement is close. It will be interesting to see who Davidson has selected, but let me be the first to say that I hope it isn't Brian Burke, though it wouldn't surprise me.
Best of luck, Scott.