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Sweeping Change

With just over two weeks before the NHL entry draft, the Blue Jackets have continued the changes that began with the resignation of Dave Rook, announcing that assistant GM Don Boyd and Director of Pro Scouting Bob Strumm will not be brought back for the 2011-12 season.

This may be one of the largest signs of a major change in direction for the team that we’ve seen since John P. McConnell promised “thorough evaluation” this offseason. Boyd had been with the Jackets essentially since Day 1, originally as the director of amateur scouting, then director of player development and hockey operations. Strum had served as a pro scout since the inaugural season, then became the director of pro scouting in 2001.

For many, this is going to be seen as an overdue move. Despite Boyd’s successes in the draft (Boyd was one of the major voices behind the Jackets drafting Derick Brassard, for example), he was also at the helm for a number of failures – not just the flops of players like Gilbert Brule or Alexandre Picard, but frequent mis-cues in later rounds that left the team’s pipeline badly exposed.

Strumm, though not as high profile, has been involved with a number of equally debatable decisions, and though we tend to look at the hand of Doug MacLean as being involved with many of the team’s historical “whoops” moves, Strumm and Boyd were often the voices who agreed with the proposals, suggested the pieces or parts that could be moved, and helped to execute the decisions.

Both men were given a second chance”when they were retained after the dismissal of MacLean, a gesture of faith from the McConnell family and Scott Howson, as he came into the organization. It’s not at all unusual for a new GM to clear the decks and assemble his own staff, but Howson was willing to give credit to the experience and loyalty these men had shown.

But now, it would seem that the repeated failures have become too much, and that the team clearly needs a fresh vision directing efforts at both building through the draft and acquiring pro talent.

The timing of the move also suggests, again, that Howson intends to use his draft picks as collateral more than anything else – otherwise, why render the men who will be involved in coordinating the team’s efforts over the rest of the month into lame ducks?

The better question is who will replace them – and will the remainder of the team’s scouting staff (whose contracts normally run until the NHL draft, before being renewed), be following Boyd and Strumm?

Edit: And at least part of that question has been answered by Aaron Portzline, who reports the rest of the scouting staff will be extended, while Paul Castron and John Williams, the current directors of amateur scouting, will be running the Jackets’ draft table in St. Paul.