With Scott Howson out as the GM of the Blue Jackets, there will be a number of people who will highlight his mistakes, but there were moments in his career that deserve respect.
Whenever a man becomes a public figure, his flaws will be magnified. Any missteps will be easy to target, any failures magnified.
Many people will couch this by saying that Scott Howson is a good man, he simply wasn't a good GM. I think that's a fair statement, but it doesn't go far enough. He made several moves that paid off for the club, and it's worth recognizing the decisions, on ice and off, that he got right.
Adam Foote's Departure
One of the first major issues of his tenure was the Jackets' captain, Adam Foote, demanding a trade to Colorado. Even though the team was still in the playoff hunt, he made it clear he wanted no part of extending his tenure in Columbus, and that only one team was an acceptable destination. Despite that, Howson managed to swing a first round pick for the veteran defenseman, and opened up significant salary.
Addition Through Subtraction
Throughout his time in Columbus, Howson made trades to shore up the club by removing players who had reached the end of the road with the club, be it for reasons of attitude, talent, or age. In addition to the aforementioned Foote trade (which essentially delivered R.J. Umberger), Howson turned Nikolai Zherdev into Fedor Tyutin, Pascal LeClaire into Antoine Vermette, Kris Russell into Nikita Nikitin, Tom Sestito into Michael Chaput, and of course his return for Rick Nash. The only deals that I can say really failed were Curtis Glencross for Dick Tarnstrom (whoops) and of course Jakub Voracek for Jeff Carter, though it's fair to say that even that situation was salvaged about as well as possible. (His handling of the Nash trade deserves some criticism, too, but considering the way he was forced to conduct most of the negotiations through the media and with a ridiculous set of handicaps on trade partners, he deserves respect for the return he created.)
Take a look at some of the guys who we're most excited about in the prospect pool: Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, John Moore, Will Weber, David Savard, Boone Jenner, Ryan Johansen, Oscar Dansk, and Ryan Murray. Not all of his draft picks succeeded, but there's a deep core of talent now that Howson established and nurtured. More than a few players in the club's prospect pool are still marinating in the NCAA, and may very well come through to make an impact on this club in the near future - particularly standouts like T.J. Tynan and Mike Reilly.
With an unexpected injury to Kristian Huselius in the offseason, Howson decided to take a gamble on another veteran winger. By bringing in Prospal, though, he added a player who wasn't afraid to demand better of this club, and it's clear that he's committed to making an impact in this city that will last long beyond his time on the ice. Should he join the front office and continue to contribute to the positive culture changes over the next few years, that late summer move may end up being one of Howson's most significant.
The Little Things
Like the 50-50 at the arena? Thank Howson and his wife, Antoinette, who suggested adding it as a fundraiser. Consider that Howson was also responsible for reducing the impact of the shootout in playoff standings, worked as a major part of the realignment and all star bids, and presided over adding several rounds of improvement to the arena experience at Natonwide. Oh, and irony of ironies, Aaron Portzline reminds us that it was Howson who actually suggested the team hire John Davidson in the first place.
Scott Howson made an effort to improve every part of the Blue Jackets, from on-ice product to the experience of watching a game. His tenure will be judged a failure, but despite that, we need to remember that he tilled the damaged ground, cleared the weeds, and planted the seeds that could very soon grow into success.