Howson hiring a bittersweet day for Oilers

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for the Edmonton Oilers organization as Scott Howson, the club's assistant general manager for the last six seasons, was named GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

While it is a credit to any organization to have their employees valued by others, as Howson was by Columbus, the fact is his loss to the Oilers will be a significant one.

General Manager Kevin Lowe is the face of Oilers management, but Howson had continuously assumed greater responsibility in his role over the last several years and worked as part of a solid tandem with Lowe.

They say that nobody is irreplaceable, but given the unique skill set that Howson possessed with his legal background, understanding of the game and most importantly his work ethic, the Oilers will be hard pressed to find anybody remotely close to being as good as Howson.

Scott Howson's time to become a GM had come.

In a hockey business that has been historically mired in cronyism, a glorified "old boys" network, or better yet "old players" network, it is refreshing to see a new trend occurring at the NHL level.

Last summer, two hires - Peter Chiarelli by Boston and Ray Shero by Pittsburgh - illustrated NHL organizations are starting to get it.

Chiarelli, like Howson, has a legal background, and both Chiarelli and Shero, like Howson, put their time in working up through the ranks.

MISSED THE MEMO

Apparently, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang missed the memo when he retired Garth Snow and made him his GM.

Howson may not be the sexiest hire for Columbus, as Americans love sizzle - case in point, Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix - but Howson is a damn good hire for the Jackets.

Columbus now has a rising management star as a GM to go along with an excellent coach and true student of the game in Ken Hitchcock.

Blue Jackets fans and media are certainly in for a different approach from the GM chair, as Howson is a believer in under-promising and over-delivering. This is opposite to his predecessor Doug MacLean, who talked a good game but ultimately never delivered.

At Howson's press conference yesterday in Columbus he referred to the Blue Jackets' franchise as a sleeping giant.

My guess is that under Howson's guidance we will see that sleeping giant awake sooner rather then later.

PHILOSOPHICAL DEBATE

Oiler fans did receive some good news this week as Toby Petersen did not win the Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Say what?!

Trust me in saying that there is philosophical debate going on within the Oilers ranks on what to do with Petersen, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Had Petersen won the Masterton it would have likely helped leverage the position of some of his biggest supporters, including head coach Craig MacTavish.

Petersen is a career overachiever and likely belongs in the NHL on an average team as a 12th to 14th forward.

He has overcome a battle of diabetes and should be commended for that. But, he is what he is: a borderline NHL player with no upside.

MacTavish played Petersen far too much last season, in virtually every situation, which reinforced just how bad the Oilers really were, especially down the stretch.

In the process, MacTavish also showed a lack of patience and understanding with young developing players.

This is poor asset management and hopefully for the Oilers we won't see this happen again.


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