Breaking down the 3 former Blue Jackets general managers, and setting the expectations for the next one

The Columbus Blue Jackets are about to hire the fourth GM in their history. What better time to look back and reflect upon the other guys who have been here? And if we're going to do that, let's set the expectations for the next person.
2010 NHL Draft - Round One
2010 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Scott Howson

After moving on from MacLean, the Jackets took two months before naming his full-time successor. They chose Edmonton Oilers AGM Scott Howson to be their second full-time General Manager.

When the Jackets hired Scott Howson in the summer of 2007, they had never played a playoff game. In fact, they had never even sniffed the playoffs. To that point, their best finish was in 2005-06, the first year out of the lockout, when they finished third in the Central division.

What a time to have that happen. The two teams that finished below them (St Louis, Erik Johnson and Chicago, Jonathan Toews), both landed franchise cornerstone pieces at that draft. That third place finish for the Jackets was only good enough for 13th in the Western Conference. Out of 15 teams.

Our prize at the draft? Derick Brassard. What a difference three picks makes.

To say that the expectations for a winning team right away were high, would be an understatement. The heat was on for Howson the moment he was hired by the Jackets, and honestly, I don't think he did a terrible job. There was just no patience for him to really build things from the ground up. This team needed to win, now.

Howson was able to assemble the mess left by Doug MacLean into a playoff team for the 2008-09 season. The Jackets marched into the playoffs on the backs of an MVP-worthy season from Rick Nash, and a Calder Trophy winning season from rookie goaltender Steve Mason.

The team's commitment to all-out defense was impressive under Hitchcock that year. Unfortunately, they ran into one of the greatest hockey teams assembled in the salary cap era, and were absolutely ripped apart by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

After a disappointing follow-up season, they fired Hitchcock from his job as head coach. This move sent this team into a free-fall that took years to recover from. They replaced him the next season with a lighter (and less expensive) version of himself: Scott Arniel. It never worked.

Howson made bold moves to try to build this team back into a playoff contender. But, the Jeff Carter - and subsequent Jack Johnson trades were both clear losses for the Blue Jackets. They overpaid James Wisniewski in free agency.

By 2012, the Jackets were back in their familiar place: the bottom of the standings. They had the works record in the league, and (of course) lost the lottery that summer. Worse, they bottomed out in a year when the draft was arguably worse than it's ever been. Their big lottery ticket prize: oft-injured defenseman Ryan Murray.

Now, outside of that 2012 mess, Howson drafted surprisingly well in retrospect. Names like Jakub Voracek, Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson, David Savard, and Boone Jenner were taken under his leadership. Not bad. They had some obvious misses in there too, such as Nikita Filatov - but, there was a whole generation of Blue Jacket talent that he's responsible for bringing in.

The Jackets fired Howson in February of 2013, with the team in such shambles that they brought on long-time NHL GM Craig Patrick as a special advisor (spy), at the recommendation of the NHL. The team's record under Howson: 174-190-59 (.411%). An improvement over MacLean, but not good enough.

Howson's best move: drafting Ryan Johansen fourth overall, when a lot of people in the fanbase were screaming for defenseman Brandon Gormley.

Howson's worst move: Jeff Carter, easily. Maybe the worst trade in the history of this franchise. Actually, no, it was the worst trade in the history of this franchise. Not up for debate.

Howson showed the Blue Jackets that if they could draft well, they could build a competent organization from the ground up - in spite of other shortcomings. In the end, Howson walked so his successor could run. And, for a successor, the Jackets hired one of the game's best eyes for young talent.