Any Jackets fans reading the paper today had a big surprise waiting for them in the report that Mike Priest and Scott Howson appear set for the long haul here in Columbus.
Don't get me wrong - I thought Howson had a pretty good summer, and made only one or two miscues, and he certainly could not have predicted the tsunami of injuries....but his commitment to both Steve Mason and Scott Arniel after both had clearly outworn their welcome is concerning, and the continued tenure of Mike Priest as team president gives me grave doubts.
If Priest was simply the VP of business operations, or a special consultant of some kind helping the team manage their bottom line, I'd call it a great fit. His work on the arena deal has been tireless, and his credentials make me think that he's a hell of a businessman. But sports management is not always the same as business management. Again and again this team has hesitated overlong on major hockey decisions, and you can't help but wonder if part of the problem is the lack of hockey knowledge in the big chair.
Would this team have somehow avoided the injuries, suspensions, and slumps with another president? Doubtful. But given the way the team has responded under Todd RIchards, perhaps decisions like removing Scott Arniel would have been made earlier, or moves to address goaltending in the last two seasons.
All I can say is that if Scott Howson and Mike Priest have a plan for this offseason, that's great, but this season should be a stark reminder that no plans survive contact with the enemy.
How will they respond when this new plan develops inevitable setbacks, dead ends, frustrations, or accidents? Who do they turn to when they need to discuss options? When key pieces are flawed, or core players end up on the shelf?
And what happens if this team is struck by the worst case scenarios once again?
It's one thing to be a slow and cautious man when making big financial decisions. Buying a house, looking at a new car, perhaps expanding a family business. But in the NHL, time is the one resource you can never get back, and hesitation has hurt this team again and again.
One of the reasons this offseason was so exciting was the way Scott Howson seemed to take the reins and MAKE things happen, not simply wait until every option had been exhausted or simply keep promising that we just needed to let our draft picks mature. Can he be trusted to take decisive action if things go sour once again? Will Craig Patrick's influence be felt in making the team more responsive and accountable? Can the men who seem to have misjudged the two biggest issues for this team over the last two years be trusted to get it right on the second (or third) try?
One of the best teachers I ever had gave an essay test at the end of every course asking about what you had learned. He told the class not to bother looking up old tests, because the questions always stayed the same - it was the answers that changed.
I'm not as concerned about this team dealing with the same questions. But I'm quite bothered that they seem to keep repeating the same answers.