This is the first in a series of blogs that I will be writing throughout the summer and the 2011-12 season for BlueJackets.com. My intention is to do this on a regular basis so I can share with our fans my thoughts on our club, the NHL and the latest news and developments around the game of hockey. I hope you will find it informative and possibly even a little entertaining.
In addition, I have also opened a Twitter account and will begin “tweeting” this week. This should be a very eventful week with the Board of Governors meeting in New York on Tuesday, the draft this weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota, our development camp next week and the free agency period beginning July 1. You can follow me at twitter.com/GMScottHowson.
While it won’t be possible for me to respond to all the messages I may receive on Twitter, I will at certain times take questions when my schedule allows. I have long been intrigued by the Twitter phenomenon and figured I’d give it a shot. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch told me I’d be “shutting it down within a month.” I’m a little more optimistic than that.
Since we played our last game in early-April, a lot has happened with the Blue Jackets. We had several players and coach Scott Arniel participate in the World Championships. A number of our prospects enjoyed successful playoff runs, including Ryan Johansen, who led Portland to the WHL Final and led the league in playoff scoring with 13-15-28 in 21 games, and Mathieu Corbeil, who helped the Saint John Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup.
Ryan has already begun working out at the arena this summer, along with three of our other young prospects – Anton Blomqvist, Oliver Gabriel and Allen York. They have been working extremely hard with our strength & conditioning coach Kevin Collins and I can tell you each of them was sore and tired after their first week, which is a good sign.
We have also made some changes to our hockey operations and coaching staffs. Earlier this month, we parted ways with two long-time members of the Blue Jackets organization – Don Boyd and Bob Strumm. Don led our amateur scouting and player personnel efforts, while Bob was our director of pro scouting. These decisions were difficult as I have the utmost respect for both of them. They are good men who showed great loyalty and worked extremely hard for our organization for over a decade. Both made significant contributions to the Blue Jackets and I am very appreciative of that.
When a team has success it is the result of the efforts of many people working together as opposed to one or two individuals who might get the majority of the credit. Likewise, when a team falls short of the goals it sets for itself, the responsibility is shared. As the leader of our hockey operations department, I accept that responsibility and it was my opinion that the time was right to make a change in those key areas.
We have also made two changes to our coaching staff with the hiring of Todd Richards as an assistant coach and Ian Clark as our goaltending coach.
Todd has spent the past two seasons as the head coach of the Minnesota Wild, was an assistant with the San Jose Sharks the season before that and spent two seasons as a head coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League. I worked with Todd when I was the assistant general manager in Edmonton as we sent six or seven players to Wilkes-Barre at that time. I was very impressed with the way he handled both success and failure, as well as the patience he displayed with young players. He has been a winner throughout his coaching and player career and will be a terrific addition to Scott Arniel’s staff.
Ian is a respected coach and teacher of the goaltending position who spent several years with the Vancouver Canucks organization and has also worked with the Florida Panthers, the Canadian National Junior Team and numerous individual players throughout the professional and college ranks. He will work with our players at that position throughout the organization. He has already traveled to the Toronto-area to visit with Steve Mason. Ian and Steve are both excited about working together and we believe that will pay dividends for us on the ice.
This is a very important time for our franchise. We know we have to improve our team. We have a thorough understanding of our strengths and the areas in which we need to be better and while we are disappointed with the way the past two seasons have gone, I am very excited about the opportunities before us. I can assure you we are going to explore every possible way in which we can improve our team. Some may involve trades. Some may involve free agency. This process has begun and while the next three weeks will see a lot of activity around the league, it doesn’t end there. Our mission every day is to improve this team and that is something that we work at every day.