The end is here
Blue Jackets turf MacLean
Doug MacLean was fired as president and general manager of the Blue Jackets tonight after a meeting of the club’s ownership group, a source told The Dispatch.Well, I'd be lying if I called this a shocking development.
The decision to fire MacLean came less than two weeks after the Blue Jackets ended their sixth NHL season without a playoff appearance.
As with any expansion franchise in any sport, growing pains are too be expected when you're a new team entering the NHL. And it's certainly not a bad idea to pick an experienced hockey 'guy' and go with him long-term, allowing your 'guy' to assemble and build his team as he sees fit.
It's a strategy that's worked in Nashville, where the David Poile/Barry Trotz tag team has been on board since the beginning and built the Predators into a Stanley Cup contender (regardless of how poorly they played tonight in San Jose). The Minnesota Wild, the Blue Jackets' expansion cousins, have also kept the same GM/coach tandem and grown into a solid franchise over time.
In both cases, the crews in charge were allowed to wait out the early, losing seasons while signs of progress — and eventually wins — began to pile up.
In Columbus, that never happened.
The Blue Jackets were no closer to making the playoffs this season than they were in 2000-01, the franchise's inaugural, 71-point campaign. In all, MacLean's reign of error saw the team win just 172 games over six seasons (or 492 games), a .350 win percentage that is by far the worst in the league over that stretch.
But as bad as the team has been historically, it's been the past two, postlockout seasons that have been the hardest to watch — because as the team's payroll has ballooned and free agents have come in, nothing has changed. MacLean has essentially continued to frantically rearrange deck chairs on a sinking ship, firing and hiring coaches and making Hail Mary trades on whims. The team's draft record, one of the bright spots (relatively speaking), has been spotty given where they've picked — and especially considering the way prized peach Nikolai Zherdev flamed out this season.
Personally, I don't have anything invested in the Blue Jackets franchise. I've never been to Ohio, don't honestly know much about the city and hadn't given it much thought prior to the Blue Jackets arriving, but what's so mind-numbingly frustrating as an outside observer is how mistreated the fans of the team have been. I've written this in the past, but Columbus is obviously a good hockey market and an NHL club would be well-supported in any other circumstance — but the constant losing and mismanagement has begun to erode that fan base, slowly but surely.
For once, the NHL got it right in expanding to Minnesota and Columbus in 2000, and it would be quite a shame if anything as easily correctable as bad management managed to somehow sink one of those franchises. That MacLean was finally turfed now at least gives ownership an opportunity to bring in some fresh ideas, someone who can work with a top-notch coach in Ken Hitchcock and really get this team (finally!) off the ground.
It'll almost be a symbolic rebirth for the franchise as it hosts the 2007 entry draft this June, and the team's second GM makes his first pick, seventh overall in front of the hometown crowd.
It might even be a sellout.
- This news broke late tonight (good thing I'm a night owl), but my guess is the Blue Jackets' wing of the blogosphere will be weighing in soon: Army of the Ohio, End of the Bench and The Neutral Zone Trap.
I know there are a lot more Blue Jackets fans out there (I always heard from them when I've criticized the team in the past) so if you'd like to weigh in on this news, feel free to send me an email or a link to your blog.
- MacLean Fired [Lowetide]
- The Latest in Blue Jacket Nation [Bethany's Hockey Rants]
- For lack of focused plan, MacLean gets the boot