John Davidson was named the new President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a move that was originally speculated by the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline within the last week.
Davidson and the St. Louis Blues parted ways a month ago, in a move that was caused by a new ownership taking control of the Blues in May. Without JD’s friend Dave Checketts, who hired him back in 2006, sitting in the owner’s chair, the odds of him staying around were slim.
However, it was still a surprise to see the Foster Hewitt Award winner and Hockey Hall of Famer land a new job as quickly as he did.
“When you’re wanted, it means a lot,” Davidson said at his introductory press conference. “With Mike (Priest, President/Alternate Governor), John (McConnell, Majority Owner) and everybody we talked to in Columbus, it was obvious that we were wanted.”
The truth of the matter is that the Blue Jackets need him.
In the Blue Jackets’ eleven seasons in the National Hockey League, the organization has reached the playoffs only once. In the Western Conference Quarterfinals in 2009, the Blue Jackets were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Last season, everything that could have possibly gone wrong for Columbus did throughout the course of the year. The Blue Jackets stumbled out of the gates, fired head coach Scott Arniel, and unsuccessfully traded the face of the franchise Rick Nash at the trade deadline. After general manager Scott Howson couldn’t move him in February, he told the media that his captain had asked to be traded.
To top off their dismal season, in which they finished with a league-worst 65 points, Columbus lost the draft lottery and ended up with the second overall pick.
This situation is not unfamiliar to Davidson. When JD took over the Blues before the 2006-07 season, the team had recorded 57 points the year before, and had the first overall pick in the draft. The recovery process was slow, but the signs were evident throughout Davidson’s tenure in St. Louis.
The 57-point season in 2005-06 was followed up by an 81-point campaign in 2006-07 and a 79-point year the following season. In 2008-09, the Blues returned to the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Western Conference standings.
In Columbus, Davidson believes that some of the pieces for a future playoff team are already in the organization. “This team has a very good defense, better than most,” Davidson proclaimed. “There are assets there, especially the youth we have. We’re in good shape here.”
Davidson also stressed the importance of the 2013 NHL Draft in solidifying the Blue Jackets’ future. Columbus has three first round picks in the Draft, thanks to trades made with the Los Angeles Kings for Jeff Carter at the trade deadline and the Rangers for Nash over the summer. “There is going to be a lot of energy spent on preparing for the Draft,” the President of Hockey Operations emphasized.
Finally, Davidson concluded by talking about the process of turning the Blue Jackets into a serious threat for an extended period. “We don’t want to get there (the playoffs) and be just a time shot,” Davidson stressed. “We want to get there and be there for a while. So we are going to build this team the right way.
“You build a team one brick at a time. It is the only way to go and that is what is going to happen here.”
The first brick in that process for the Blue Jackets was bringing Davidson in as President of Hockey Operations.