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Craig Patrick reveling in new role with Blue Jackets

Friday, 02.17.2012 / 1:35 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Craig Patrick reveling in new role with Blue Jackets
Hired by the Blue Jackets in December, Hall of Famer Craig Patrick now serves as GM Scott Howson's right-hand man.
Hall of Famer Craig Patrick is smiling a lot these days.

And with a new job that fits his lifestyle perfectly, why wouldn't he be happy?

Patrick was hired as a senior advisor by Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson on Dec. 7, and has enjoyed his first taste of life back in the NHL since being fired as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006.

"It's great," Patrick told NHL.com during a stop in Philadelphia on a scouting trip. "It's great to be back in the game. I missed it a lot. It's good to be back doing what I like to do."

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Howson said he first had the idea to add Patrick to his staff last March at the NHL General Manager meetings, when Patrick was honored by the group.

"He had said during his talk that he'd like to get involved again," Howson told NHL.com. "But then you get busy with the summer months, and then the season started to unfold, we weren't doing well, and I thought how could we help. We need some more people to help us get through this and I thought of him."

Patrick said the call from Howson was a surprise -- an extremely pleasant one.

"It came out of the blue," Patrick said. "Scott gave me a call one day and said he was thinking about adding someone with a little more experience, and I happened to be available."

Making the job even better is Patrick is able to work from his home in Pittsburgh.

"I live in Pittsburgh, so it's a three-hour commute," he said. "I can live in Pittsburgh and do my job traveling around. All my kids and grandkids are there."

Patrick brings a wealth of experience to the Blue Jackets. He was the architect of the Penguins' Stanley Cup champions in 1991 and '92, and was responsible for drafting, among others, Jaromir Jagr, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He's also coached in the NHL and was an assistant coach with Herb Brooks on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.

"Really and truly what it is, it's whatever Scott Howson needs me to do, I do," Patrick said of his role. "It's really helping him out. I'm his right-hand man. I'm advising him, but also getting out on the road and doing a lot of work for him that he can't do by himself."

And Patrick knows his voice rings loud in any and all decision-making. The Columbus Dispatch reported Patrick was part of high-level organizational meetings -- which included owner John P. McConnell, Howson and interim coach Todd Richards, among others -- to discuss the future of the franchise.

"I talk to Scott several times a day on all issues," Patrick said. "I wasn't sure exactly what (the job) would be, but I'm happy it's working out the way it is."

"We didn't know what his role would be, but I explained to him it would be a significant role," said Howson. "He's done a lot of things, from watching our prospects play in college to being invaluable at the trade deadline. It's been a significant role."

Howson said it didn't take him long to realize he and Patrick would work well together.

"I knew I'd have a good rapport with him," he said. "I got to sit down with him for a couple hours over lunch. He's a really good person, sincere, honest. … He takes his time making decisions, he's thoughtful. I knew we'd have a good connection."

Patrick's job has entailed scouting the Jackets' prospects in the AHL and ECHL, as well as recently drafted players still in junior or NCAA hockey. He'll also be used to evaluate draft prospects; sitting 30th in the NHL, the Blue Jackets likely will have the best odds at winning the NHL Draft Lottery.

"He's got great experience," said Howson. "He's won Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, and one of the important parts is he's got experience with all sorts of different teams. He's been with teams that have been rebuilding, he's built great teams, he's won Stanley Cups. I thought he'd be a really valuable person to have on board as we try to analyze where we are and where we need to go."

He'll also have a major role in the team's decision-making heading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

"I've got some other good people, but he's been through it. He's been through what we're going through now. It's just a really good, experienced person that's seen it and done it and you can just either confirm some ideas with him so you know you're on the right path and he can give you a different perspective."

"We have a plan," Patrick said. "It's too early to determine what we're going to be doing. We have a plan and hopefully we'll get some things done to make us better for next year.

"We're having conversations with everybody and we'll see how it plays out. We're weighing all our options. We're not excluding anything at this point."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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