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Blue Jackets' new GM says he's ready to take team in right direction @NHLdotcom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -The Columbus Blue Jackets' new general manager says he wants to give hope to fans who have witnessed nothing but losing during the team's six NHL seasons.

"Every fan wants hope and that's what we're going to provide them," said Scott Howson, who was introduced Friday as the club's new GM. "I think we're headed in the right direction."

Howson believes most of the pieces are in place for making the Blue Jackets competitive, but declined to say when that would happen.

"I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to over promise and under deliver," he said.

Howson replaces Doug MacLean, the team's original president and GM who was fired in April.

The search came down to the wire, with Howson hired right before next week's NHL draft in Columbus.

"Our No. 1 priority was to find the best person we could to lead our hockey organization," said Mike Priest, the Blue Jackets' president.

Howson said he was ready to help the Blue Jackets in the draft and was familiar with prospects the team might be interested in.

"I have an almost dangerous knowledge of the young players" in the upcoming draft, he joked.

MacLean, who had been with the team since its inception, oversaw the drafts, signed free agents, made trades and sculpted the public perception of the franchise. But Columbus never made the playoffs and is the only NHL team that hasn't appeared in the postseason.

Howson said he would solicit opinions from coach Ken Hitchcock and other staff members, but that the decisions would ultimately rest with him.

Those decisions could include making trades or aggressive pitches to free agents in the offseason to complement the Blue Jackets core of young players, including Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche and Gilbert Brule. All four began NHL careers as teens, and Priest criticized MacLean last week for pushing them into the league too soon.

"I have one simple goal: To build a championship team that consistently performs at the highest level," Howson said.

Howson's playing career peaked with 18 games as a forward for the New York Islanders in 1984-1985. His playing days behind him, he earned a law degree from Toronto's York University before running Edmonton's top farm club from 1994-2000. He was hired by the Oilers in 2000 and the team promoted him to assistant general manager a year later.

In Edmonton, he oversaw personnel decisions and contract negotiations, including salary cap issues, a skill that helped the small-market Oilers reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 and could also help the Blue Jackets.

"It's a privilege and an honor to play in the NHL," Hitchcock said. "He believes in this philosophy. He wants to build a team based on character."

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