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NHL News: Columbus Blue Jackets Fire GM Scott Howson

The Columbus Blue Jackets have axed their GM after six years on the job and one playoff appearance.

Howson signed ex-Blackhawk, Duck, Islander and Canadien James Wisniewski to a hefty free agent deal.
Howson signed ex-Blackhawk, Duck, Islander and Canadien James Wisniewski to a hefty free agent deal.
John Grieshop

We're posting this here because GMs don't lose their jobs everyday, and the Columbus saga is an interesting one: The Blue Jackets have fired GM Scott Howson, just a few months after former Rangers broadcaster and ex-Blues president John Davidson took a job as president of the club.

The writing was on the wall back in October when Columbus brought Davidson in, so it's interesting that they made the move only now.

Davidson, as you probably know, left broadcasting to take the presidency of the Blues after his old buddy Dave Checketts led a group to buy that franchise in 2006. Davidson oversaw a rebuild that had already begun, and kept the team wed to a plan of growing from within based on patient nurturing of prospects. (That said, Davidson's first big signing was an immediately regrettable signing of Jay McKee to a $16 million, four-year deal that would end in a buyout.)

Davidson inherited as GM of the Blues Larry Pleau, who had a mixed record at the helm but whose wife was also suffering through a life-threatening illness. So it was an arrangement of convenience and compassion that the Blues brought in former Dallas Stars GM Doug Armstrong as assistant GM in 2008, with the understanding that he would assume the head job in 2010 when Pleau retired to be with his family.

It was a compassionate exit strategy for Pleau. It was a blow to head of scouting Jarmo Kekalainen -- who stewarded much of the draft choices in the Blues rebuild -- that Davidson chose Armstrong over him. Kekalainen soon returned to Finland to be a GM and hopefully groom himself for a return to North America as an NHL GM.

Anyway, though Checketts -- never the money guy -- knew he'd be forced to sell the team when his other investors were ready to cash out, he inked his buddy Davidson to a lucrative multi-year contract extension on his way out the door. (The Blues brass was already pretty top-heavy, with Armstrong and Davidson having several other senior executives in the fold.) That contract was not pleasing to the eventual new owners, led by Tom Stillman, a minority owner who did not exactly see eye to eye with Checketts.

Naturally, the new owners worked out an exit for Davidson, and Columbus -- despite having Howson, former NHL GM Craig Patrick, and other top executives in the fold -- jumped at the chance to bring Davidson in as president in October 2012.

It didn't take long for Davidson to determine Howson wasn't for him.

Right now the media is scrambling to figure out who Davidson has in mind as a replacement -- Dave Taylor, who also worked with him in St. Louis, is one name, as is Kekalainen and Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall. But at any rate a deal is expected very soon, perhaps by Wednesday morning. [Update: Looks like its Kekalainen. See insight from a Jokerit fan by Antti in comments below.]

Davidson's statement is filled with compassion and the gentle language of these moves: Not a firing but a "relieving of duties;" a "caring man," a "gentleman and a professional" who gave his "heart and soul" to the job but whom "gut" instinct determined should be axed.

Whatever one thinks of Davidson's operational talents, one can't argue that he wants to treat people right and throw no one under the bus.

Howson had an awful track record as GM that rivals only that of his disastrous predecessor Doug MacLean. Low points include going long on Steve Mason, firing Ken Hitchcock (those two are related), and the handling of Jeff Carter and Rick Nash, though ironically his last big move may have been one of his best: Salvaging several useful parts for Nash after the franchise star demanded a trade. (That said, Nash was making highlights as Howson was canned.)

Read more about this and reaction from Blue Jackets fans at Jackets Cannon.