YOLO of the Week: Columbus Blue Jackets’ Draft Day Meltdown

Some 440s and 216s scoffed when the Browns moved up one spot to ensure Trent Richardson landed in the Dawg Pound. They sunk their teeth into Holmgren and Heckert, even though the franchise had an abundance of picks and only sacrificed low-value selections that would have been forced to battle for a roster spot.

If people cared about the Blue Jackets anywhere near as much as the Brownies, Jackets GM Scott Howson might have formed Triple H on the chopping block.

As GM, Howson’s pedigree includes continuous speculation on star winger Rick Nash’s seemingly imminent departure (Nash was denied his trade request in February) and a botched deadline deal that sent floundering center Jeff Carter to the LA Kings, where he improved his output and now gets to slurp cereal from Lord Stanley’s cup.

Locals were too busy watching (and swag-rating) the Buckeyes to support the hometown Terrible-On-Ice crew in their freefall to the NHL cellar. After dealing Carter for a pick, Howson did everything he could not to label the trade with the loathsome R word, but it made it in the sentence.

“I think I said it was the beginning of the reshaping of the team, which doesn’t necessarily mean rebuilding. I expect to be very busy here, very active.”

In spite of a woeful season that convincingly cemented themselves at the bottom of the league, the Jackets missed out on the first pick, losing out on surefire stud Nail Yakupov in favor of the #2 choice. Parallels to the Charlotte Bobcats abound, but the Bobcats are ran by a former MLB minor leaguer who moonlighted as the greatest professional basketball player in history, Michael Jordan, while the Jackets are managed by a man more famous for his stint on the Toledo Goaldiggers* than his 18 games on NHL ice.

I’d like to stop here and point out that the Toledo Goaldiggers are by far the best-named defunct minor league hockey team of all time. In what sounds like a Sandler plot, 1980 Miracle on Ice captain Mike Eruzione played on the Goaldiggers for two years before headscratchingly advancing from the minor leagues to leader of the US Olympic squad. 

With the second choice, Howson played it safe, drafting coveted defenseman Ryan Murray. No complaints about the pick; Murray is genreally considered the best of the 7 denfensemen selected in the top 10. It’s what Howson didn’t do that is so head-scratching, mind numbing, and jaw-droppingly brazen.

Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline’s report makes both Howson and Islanders GM Garth Snow seem of unstable mind:

How highly did the Blue Jackets value defenseman Ryan Murray before taking him with the No. 2 overall pick in Friday’s first round of the NHL Draft? Enough to turn down an eye-opening offer from the New York Islanders, who, according to numerous NHL sources, offered all of their picks — one in each round — for the right to move up from No. 4 to No. 2 for Murray.

That’s right, for the Jackets’ No. 2 pick, the Islanders offered pick Nos. 4, 34, 65, 103, 125, 155 and 185. The bounty would have given the Jackets the following picks: 4, 31, 34, 62, 65, 95, 103, 125, 152, 155, 182 and 185. And if that weren’t enough, the Jackets could have had the Kings’ No. 30 if they wanted it.

Or maybe it isn’t brazen at all. Perhaps cold feet froze Howson, or the fear of messing up, or past trade failures. But for a mere two spots, in a franchise where talent flees town like a fugitive, Howson shot down an entire additional draft.

The Philistines would trade Goliath if they were getting all of the Jewish forces. The only comparison in the history of humanity is when Mike Ditka, best known for playing Will Ferrell’s dad’s coffee praising neighbor in Kicking and Screaming, traded a whole draft and two picks the next season to move up and draft Ricky Williams. Though it might seem like a bad move, seeing Ditka in dreads might have made it all worthwhile.

I promise you, in no way was this photo altered

And at least Ditka moved up 7 picks; Snow’s attempt to mortgage the future was a mere two spot climb. Sitting at 4, Columbus could have had their choice of any of the 6 defensemen drafted in the top 10 along with Murray. Howson and Snow’s increasingly poor choices makes it seem like they were competing to see who had the smaller brain, a backwards affair that crowned Howson champion of cerebral deficiency. Maybe he’s one of those guys who is comedically bad under duress?

If there’s a silver lining (albeit, ripped, tarnished, and threadbare), it’s that Howson fired most of the Blue Jackets’ scouts immediately after the draft. See, guys, it’s not that Howson is an irrational GM, it’s just that his faith in his scouts is 100% agnostic.

How can Jackets fans feel good about their squad when the GM just demonstrated that he thinks his scouts are worthless? Prospects of future success rest on “prospects” recommended by people who apparently had no clue how to properly evaluate players. But at the end of the day, Howson had the final call. The scouts are the goats for not accepting the offer; Howson is basically saying that thanks to terrible intel, they would have just wasted all of the extra picks anyway.

As for Ryan Murray, he laces up his skates with the expectations of two full drafts planted on his shoulders, the encumbering weight of a terrible decision.

It boils down to a fascinating dichotomy: either Scott Howson is YOLO, or he needs to listen to teenagers parrot Drizzy more often. His fortitude (or lack thereof) on draft night will determine the future of not only the franchise, but his own employment. Howson, and the Jackets, are skating on thin ice.


2 Comments on “YOLO of the Week: Columbus Blue Jackets’ Draft Day Meltdown”

  1. ocbfs says:

    Well written article but just one problem. Howson is cautious and tends to look at things in a conservative manner. If you look at the statistics in this deal Howson made the right move. Look at the drafts of the last 10 years and compare the players in this trade at the same postions during the previous 10 drafts. The results are, 1 year the multiple picks was a clear winner, 2 years were close and you could argue either way, the other 7 were no brainers on the side of keeping the number 2 pick. I think there are many things to bash Howson for over the last few years but this is not one of them based on history.

    • mattlardner says:

      Interesting point. The Jackets have a spotty record for developing recent selections, so who knows if any of the extra picks would have panned out. It’s quality vs. quantity, but the dropoff from choice 2 to pick 4 seems so miniscule that if Howson trusted his staff, it would have been beneficial. Thanks for the input!

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