Howson into spotlight

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET

For six seasons, Scott Howson was the man behind the man. Now he is the man trying to turn a franchise around in Columbus.

So far, things are heading in the right direction.

"Things are going fine, we're getting settled in as a family and the team has had a decent start, so it's been good," Howson said. "The challenge with the coaching staff and I is getting the players to believe they can win and that we can take the necessary steps to win. First and foremost that's competing consistently each game and not having the dips that seem to have happened in the past."

Howson was hired in June to be the Blue Jackets general manager. At the time, he was the assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers. He had been here since 2000, but when the opportunity presented itself in Columbus, it was too good to pass up.

"You're the decision-maker now, so there is a little more substance a little more pressure in what the decision is going to be," Howson said. "In the past, I just gave my opinion and it was one of the opinions that Kevin (Lowe) would use in terms of making the decisions. Now I have to make the decisions."

In the Jackets, Howson inherited a team that had never made the playoffs, the previous season finishing last in their division for the third consecutive time. He replaced Doug MacLean as the team's general manager, who had been with the club since joining the league in 2000.

"We had a strong leadership core led by Adam Foote, and I didn't think we had to make drastic changes to the team," Howson said.

"We added a couple of pieces, but I knew we had some good, young players, some good prospects and maybe some players that were ready to take the next step. I could see there were some good young players here and in the system."

With Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, the Jackets have gotten off to a very good start in what has suddenly become a very tough division. Heading into tonight's contest, the Jackets have an 11-8-4 record.

"He's a great resource for me," Howson said of his head coach. "He's been in the league for a long time. He brought credibility and a presence and a structure to the team that was needed. It's been a really positive working relationship, much like I experienced in Edmonton where we had positive experiences with our coaching staff.

"Kevin believes in that, and I believe that's the right way to do it, too."

Howson knows things aren't going to change overnight for the Jackets. But they have a legitimate superstar in Rick Nash to build a solid team around.

The goal is to eventually build a championship-calibre team and in the process win back some of the fans who deserted the squad after years of futility.

"It's a really good city, a nice city, a friendly city," Howson said. "We've been welcomed quite graciously. It's not Canada and it's not hockey country like Edmonton is.

"Ohio State dominates the sporting landscape and that's something that takes a little getting used to.

"The fan-base has dwindled a little, but they sold out every game in its second year, so there are people here that want to support it and I think there are a lot of people sitting on the fence waiting for us to put the right product on the ice."


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