After six years of helping build the St. Louis Blues into a Stanley Cup contender, John Davidson is starting the process all over again -- this time in Columbus, where patience has been preached and losing has been the norm for a dozen years.
Davidson, the Blue Jackets' new president of hockey operations, is being paid to change all of that.
He has referred to Columbus as the NHL's "best-kept secret" because of the fans in the community, the facilities that the Blue Jackets have and the stable ownership provided by the McConnell family since the franchise was born.
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Davidson thinks the Blue Jackets already have some foundation pieces in place to be a good team in a short period of time, but patience is still part of the solution. He likes goalie Steve Mason despite his struggles in recent seasons and believes a tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Mason will give the Jackets stability in net. But Davidson also realizes the Blue Jackets will need more offense to consistently compete for a playoff berth.
That's just a sampling of what Davidson thinks about his new challenge. Read on for more of his thoughts.
Can you compare the challenge you have now in Columbus to what you had in St. Louis when you got there in 2006?
"There are a lot of similarities. You're starting toward the bottom of the League. You're starting with a fan base that is good. You know it's good, but you have to find a way to get it to be as competitive as possible as soon as possible because that's what they want. It's a good fan base, just like St. Louis."
Do you feel the need to build around a star player or two, a face of the franchise so to speak?
"No, but you hope that through your drafting and your style of play that your fans will adopt players. I can talk from experience in St. Louis when you look at T.J. Oshie. Nobody in the League works harder than him -- the little kids love him and the grandparents love him. Then you've got a guy like [Alex] Pietrangelo, who has developed through the franchise. We sent him back to juniors twice and people would say, 'Are you guys nuts? Why don't you play him?' Well, you've gotta do things right and he is one very, very good player on his way to becoming a great player."
You had patience to build in St. Louis and you're preaching patience here in Columbus. How do you have so much patience?
"Sometimes when you have a franchise where you don't have a luxury of spending all your money, because you're under a budget that is well under the cap, it's good because if you have it you may run out and do foolish things. So it is what it is and you have to go about your business with the cards you're dealt. You have to build a foundation."
Would it have been better, or easier, if you had still had Rick Nash in Columbus?
"I'm going north. There is absolutely no sense in me even thinking about that. My reasoning is that we have four pieces that came out of that trade. [Artem] Anisimov and [Brandon] Dubinsky are two good players. [Tim] Erixon is really developing in the minors. And with the first-rounder we got, it means we'll have three this year. So I'm going north."
How much work have you already done on the structure of the organization?
"That's the one good thing about the lockout, I had a chance to do a lot of things. Some of those things have been trying to get a house in Columbus and go through the whole moving process, which is never a pleasant thing. I have gotten to a lot of junior games to see a lot of our prospects. I've been to the American League games in Springfield. So having the lockout on it gave me the time and opportunity to do all this stuff. I'm pretty well-versed in it now."