COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets introduced John Davidson as the club's president of hockey operations yesterday at Nationwide Arena, and shortly after his press conference, joined a national media conference call to discuss his new position.
Here is the full transcript of yesterday's conference call:
Q: I realize that they’re building a team in the front office there with Scott, Craig Patrick and yourself. It’s similar to what you had in St. Louis, but how aggressive will you be in adding to that Front Office or making changes to the Front Office or scouting?
JD: With the ongoing lockout, which is very disappointing, it frees up a lot of time for myself to analyze exactly what we have and where I think we can improve things. I know that, and I used this story before when I was in St. Louis and Larry Pleau the general manager was contemplating moving on, we brought on Doug Armstrong. Doug had a good season to analyze everything before he became general manager, and was therefore able to analyze the franchise itself and make stronger decisions. I think in this situation, we’re going to all get together, we’re going to talk about things, and I’m going to analyze a lot of different things. I know that Craig has a winning experience, and Scott and the group have done a lot of work this off-season, changing things up. We’re going to work together through this whole thing, and we’re going to put forth a game plan that we’re going to stick to. Everything is here that you need from ownership: a very strong building, locker rooms, facilities, the way they travel. What we have to do in the hockey department is get our plan in place, stay with it, and then go from there. Another point is that this season, The Blue Jackets have three first-rounders coming our way. This is a big, big draft for this club. We’re really going to concentrate on that and make sure it goes in the right direction.
Q: How well do you know Scott Howson?
JD: I know Scott. I’ve talked to Scott. I know that Scott is a competitive, caring person. The whole franchise is reaching out, trying to find a way to get itself better, including Scott. We’ll start tomorrow early, we’ll start as a group, formulating what we’ll do to go forward.
Q: Would you consider this move from St. Louis a challenge because of where the Blue Jackets are? Secondly, what is your sense where the Blue Jackets are in terms of a re-building and grabbing a playoff spot if, and when, hockey gets going again?
JD: First of all, I think no matter where you are in the standings, it’s a challenge when you run an organization where there (are) thirty teams, and sixteen make the playoffs. It’s an ongoing battle. Here in Columbus, I took a hard look at this, knowing that I was in the position where I could do anything from retire to go to another team or go to TV, and I like to win. I enjoyed the process in St. Louis with a franchise that had bottomed out, but now is a club that looks like it can win for a long time. And I think we can do that here in Columbus. The reason I say that is, this is a very committed ownership group here with a great facility. The building here, along with the practice facility that is married to the building, the locker room facilities, the way they travel… it’s gotta be in the top five in the NHL. It’s a great facility; it’s a very underrated city. I know my time in St. Louis was very gratifying and everybody we talked to family-wise tells me that Columbus is a very similar city. St. Louis is a great city to live in. Now that being said, we have to look at the club itself. And I know that it didn’t achieve 60 points last season. Was that underachieving? Was that where they should be? We’re going to find that out. I think it’s a better club than what it showed. I think there’s a lot of pieces that have been put together here during the off-season with the Rick Nash trade, with committed players, such as Mason, the goaltender. He was in the best conditioned, hockey shape of his life when he showed up for camp, which there wasn’t a camp. I know that the club has a fairly solid blue line. Goaltending-wise, if Brobovsky and (Mason) can find a way to play to their strengths, this team should be able to keep the puck out of the net. If you can do that, you’re always in games. While that’s going on, we have to, as an organization, understand research, drafting, and development. The lifeblood of this franchise is going to be its drafting ability going forward. And that’s something we have to pay a lot of attention to, plus once you draft the kids, you have to develop them. That’s going to be hugely important for us. That’s what we did in St. Louis, and I think that’s the game plan here.
Q: You mention the three first-round picks you have. Worst case scenario and we lose the season here, what would that mean to where those picks are and do you know how that would be played out from a draft standpoint?
JD: No, that was on my list of goals for tomorrow. That’s something for the league. I think we should go one, two, and three myself (laughing). In fact, I’ll lobby for that if I can. Any improvement, that’s what we’re here for, to try and improve the franchise. That’s something we have to figure out, how the league’s going to do that. I don’t see it changing much if we do lose the season. I’m a glass half-full guy, and I certainly hope we don’t lose the season.
Q: What are your thoughts on this year’s draft as far as depth goes?
JD: Well, from what I understand, it’s a lot better than last year. I haven’t been out in the field. I plan to be out in the field. I plan to get to know all of our staff that can do that job, that’s in the field. I know that it’s a worldwide game now with kids that are drafted all over the place. You need scouts that can do the job for you worldwide. Again, for our franchise here, it’s going to be the lifeblood, so we really have to have a strong winter. We need to be very committed to doing exactly that. I know every team feels that way, I understand firsthand how important that is. We had good success in St. Louis, in particular with first-round picks. If you look at the Blues organization now and the players they put on the ice, that’s the make-up. On top of that, there (are) other players there that were traded using players or picks… so you really have to pay attention to this. You really have to commit your organization to doing the best you can. It’s huge for us here.
Q: You mentioned Steve Mason and how good his off-season was - do you have any concerns about a guy like that who works hard, and is sitting and waiting for some action?
JD: I think everybody is being tested now throughout the hockey world. Players are accustomed to getting to their cities at certain times of the year, then all of the sudden something happens, and players have to deal with it. They’re professionals. Professionals have to have an understanding of this is… and at any minute this thing can change, and if it does, they’re expected to show up and be professionals, and be in shape, and be ready to go. I suspect if this thing ever closed and we got back to playing, it would be a very short camp and games would be played in a very short period of time. My only suggestion to the players would be, be more diligent now than you were in the off-season because anything could happen at any time, you never know.
Q: In terms of attendance, how similar is the situation to what you faced in St. Louis? How do you go about winning back the fan base that just lost its star player, Nash, and hasn’t had any playoff success, and even with the draft picks, hasn’t had much luck? Do you have any kind of plans for how to go about fixing that?
JD: First of all, being in St. Louis, and I must thank them for the opportunity that I had there, and the good times that I had there, and the great support from the fans. When I got there, there was only – and I’m just guessing now – in the neighborhood of 6,000 a game, but they were the best 6,000. And the reason I say that is that they were there, and they knew the circumstances, and it can be frustrating when the team goes through a bottoming out process like we did in St. Louis. The fans there believed in the plan that we had and it’s going to be a similar situation here. You can’t not tell the truth. You can’t blow smoke and try to fake your way through this. I think the team here is better than what it showed last year. I know that the Columbus Blue Jackets, and if somebody wanted to do a story on it, it’s pretty interesting. During the off-season here in this lockout time, this club hasn’t stopped. They’re doing things every day with the fans, trying to keep them interested, and telling the fans how much they care about them. [They’re] putting ice in the building here at Nationwide and having people skate and being out in the community building parks and all kinds of things. It’s continuous. I give them a lot of credit for not just closing up shop and saying, “Okay, when the lockout’s over, we’ll see ya.” On top of that, the fans here would love to see a winner – they’ve been in the playoffs one time. I can’t be responsible for what went on in the past. I’m here for “let’s get her going” from this point forward. We’re going to have a game plan, we’re going to stick to that game plan, and I used the analogy in St. Louis and I’ll use it here because it’s factual: it’s one brick at a time. You can only build a franchise by doing it the right way, and if you do it one brick at a time, you will solidify your foundation. Once you get there, it should be a good club for a good length of time, for a long time. We’re committed to that. There’s no other way to go. There just isn’t. The ownership here is very committed, too. The facilities they have for the players to play and the fans to watch (are) world-class. This is a really good situation.
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