GM dishes out blame, Jackets respond
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson took matters into his own hands Tuesday when he addressed the team's slow start in a blog post on the Blue Jackets' official website.
Instead of placing the blame squarely on his own shoulders, Howson acknowledged that there was plenty to go around and that many stakeholders were a party to the team's disappointing start.
"The first three weeks have been extremely difficult for all of us," he said. "The responsibility for where we are lies with me, our management staff, coaches and players. It does not lie with Brendan Shanahan or the NHL or the officials. It is not about luck. The responsibility for getting us out of it lies also with us ... all of us doing it together."
While it is not uncommon for an executive in any business to take the heat when things are not going well, rarely are they the only reason. By naming names in some respect, Howson gives the statement more credibility in that he knows he tried his best to assemble a winning team, but those players and the coaches have not been able to do so at the start of the season.
Columbus had big hopes for the 2011-12 season.
Attendance at Nationwide Arena has been on the decline as the Blue Jackets averaged 13,602 fans last year. In an effort to put together a winning squad last offseason, he acquired Jeff Carter in a trade with Philadelphia and also added defenseman James Wisniewski via free agency — moves that so far haven't translated to more wins or more fans. The Jackets have drawn three crowds under 10,000 and are averaging just 12,136 fans in the first five home games.
Carter is not playing due to a stress fracture in his right foot, while Wisniewski just finished serving the final game of his eight-game suspension issued by Shanahan, the NHL's new senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations.
"Our fans have been remarkably patient with our franchise," he continued. "We understand the anger and frustration that has built up over the past decade makes this about more than just the present. All I can tell you is that we are working together to look for solutions every day."
There may be a method to Howson's madness, as the Blue Jackets defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Tuesday night to earn their first victory of the season. The win featured a rebound goal by R.J. Umberger on the game's first shift and temporarily halted the distressing start.
"I don't think anyone in that dressing room has been through the three weeks of hell we just went through," Columbus coach Scott Arniel told reporters. "The psychological, the emotional, everything that came with it. It was a lot of baggage."
Central Division Notes
Chicago honored two of its legendary players Sunday when they unveiled life-sized bronze statues of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull that will reside outside of the United Center. "It hasn't sunk in, and I don't think it ever will," Mikita said after the unveiling. ... Former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute goaltender Allen York saw his first career NHL action Tuesday night in a brief appearance in relief of Columbus starter Steve Mason, who was forced from the game for a short time due to an injury. York played 2:33 before Mason returned. York did not face a shot in his limited time. ... After winning their first five games by a combined score of 18-7, the Red Wings lost their next two by an equally lopsided combined count of 11-2. "We just got beat 7-1, so to start like that tonight to me is a lack of preparation and isn't good enough," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said following Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to Columbus. ... Nashville received good news on the injury front this week as both C Mike Fisher and D Francis Bouillon returned to the lineup Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. Fisher had been sidelined since offseason shoulder surgery and had an assist while playing 19 1/2 minutes. Bouillon had been out since sustaining a concussion in January and played 17:32. ... The positive news on players returning from concussions extended to St. Louis this week as well. LW David Perron began practicing with his teammates and has traveled with the team on its current swing through Western Canada. Perron's been sidelined since Nov. 4, 2010. A date for his return to the lineup has not yet been determined.