The Curious Case of Scott Howson
Scott Howson has probably made more bold moves than many would give him credit for. This off-season, he all but bet his career on Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski bringing legitimate hockey to Columbus. So far, that hasn't panned out, but according to Howson, "Coaching is not an issue..."
Joe Yerdon of NBC Sports' ProHockeyTalk thinks Howson is delusional, and I can't disagree.
It’s noble that Howson is believing in his coach and his team to get things turned around enough to challenge for the postseason, but last year’s Devils were in a similar position (20 points in 33 games, 18 points out of eighth) and while they threatened to make the playoffs with an incredible run, they fell short in the end.
So let me get this straight. Howson puts together a group of players that he believes are fit to compete for the playoffs. Ownership is on board and they allow Howson to spend more money than ever before - currently sitting at just below a $62 million cap hit, or 13th in the league. The 13th highest payroll for the worst team in the league. OK...
Then there's Scott Arniel, the coach that was hired by Howson after he let Ken Hitchcock go. Arniel has led his team to a 9-20-4 record. Coaches with records that poor get fired. In fact, as Aaron Portzline points out:
Six NHL coaches have been fired already this season, all of them with clubs ahead of the Blue Jackets in the standings and three of them with winning records at the time of the firing.
So what's the deal? The players aren't playing to their potential, that's obvious. Surely there has to be some element of poor coaching, there's not much else that can explain the late game collapses this team suffers from. But if the coach isn't the problem and the players aren't playing, isn't it on the man who put the players in place? At the very least, shouldn't Howson be more aggressive in trying to deal some of these players to address the problems?
Howson's heroic act of standing behind his coach and players that are being overpaid to play at a level just above AHL-caliber hockey might make for a heartwarming story, but it may be doing more harm to this franchise than any Doug MacLean ego trip. Howson standing pat while his team is on track to get the number 1 overall pick next year isn't doing anyone any bit of good. Well, unless he really likes next year's top prospect.
The case of rushing prospects has always been a concern in years past. Due to a lack of depth, a player like John Moore has played 22 games and tallied just 1 goal with a -6 rating. What exactly is this doing to his development? I'm just hoping Ryan Johansen's raw talent allows him to overcome his surroundings. I have to wonder, though - if a first round pick in Derick Brassard isn't doing the right things in practice or in games to deserve suiting up, what kind of example does that set for Johansen or Moore?
And hasn't that been this team's problem all along?