Scott Howson takes a lot of heat. Some of it deserved, some of it just plain silly. Could things with Nash have smoothed over? Possibly. But even for a hockey player who’s the face of a franchise Rick Nash played an unbelievably passive aggressive game with the media, the fans, the Columbus team and well anyone not his agent. No one can blame him for wanting to go to a place that will improve his chances to win. The way he did it probably half a step below Dany Heatley’s methodology and without having ever faced the pressure of a long established hockey market.
So what do we know about Scott Howson’s plan going forward. Well, he’s nailed down three of the planks any good team is built on. Depth is number one. As the Sedin twins, Stamkos and company, and others have well illustrated over the years you can’t win with just one or two elite talents and a roster full of four-A players. With Dubinsky who might prove to be a top center if given room to grow but is already comparable to Kesler or Plekanec they have one undeniable top two center. Anisimov gives more offensive talent at a younger age than second and third lines have seen in Columbus.
Defense is the tricky one to build. Defensemen as rule take longer to mature than forwards, but they tend to stay at their top level longer. With Wisniewski and Johnson as two veteran mentors to younger players Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray are less likely to get thrown into the deep and and left to flounder like Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers. Taking that two hundred games to learn defense at the NHL level will give the Blue Jackets a more dynamic defensive unit in the near future than much of the central division can claim. Don’t overlook Nikita Nikitin as part of this defense. He’s an all situations defenseman who’ll end up playing top four minutes.
The model that has worked best in the last decade for building teams has been draft your core and fill in the rest later. The Penguins, BlackHawks, Bruins and Kings all boasted a lot of home grown talent when they hoisted the cup. This year the team will have three first round picks. While they could flip one or all of those for NHL players or NHL ready prospects, I would in no way be surprised if Howson uses all three selections. Hockey’s Future gives them a very low rating for total prospect pool talent and three first round draft picks of the right kind will go a long ways toward reversing that. With the talent that is expected to be available in the first round next year, they could be a contending team in not too long if their goaltending can settle in and produce at an average level.
Some may not like Howson. Some make not like the Howson plan even if it didn’t have his name on it. That said, it does appear there is a plan, and he’s certainly demonstrated he won’t be deviating from it for anything less than direct godly intervention.