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Columbus hires Hockey Hall of Famer Craig Patrick

Dec 7, 2011, 4:19 PM EDT

Craig Patrick

Big news out of Ohio today as the Blue Jackets announced they’ve hired former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Craig Patrick as a senior advisor. Patrick, 65, will be responsible for advising GM Scott Howson on trades, free agent signings, as well as evaluating Blue Jackets prospects.

“I am very pleased to add Craig to our organization,” said Howson. “He possesses a wealth of experience, having won two Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals, including gold with Team USA in 1980. His insight and knowledge will be invaluable to the Blue Jackets.”

Howson then mopped sweat off his brow and lit a cigarette. When asked what was wrong, he replied “What do you mean? Who said anything is wrong? NO, YOU’RE THE ONE THAT’S BEING DEFENSIVE.”

All joking aside, the Patrick’s presence could loom large.

For most of this season, Blue Jackets fans have clamored for a shakeup behind the bench (Scott Arniel) or in the front office (Howson). Arniel’s survived, probably because he’s seen as a good young coach saddled with a lousy team. That’s put more heat on Howson, the architect of said lousy team.

But Howson has also avoided the guillotine, thanks in part to fierce loyalty shown by the guy that hired him: Columbus’ team president, Mike Priest.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Priest isn’t a “hockey guy” by nature — prior to becoming president, he was the CFO of owner John P. McConnell’s holding company — partly why the Columbus organization’s been accused of lacking hockey knowledge and savvy.

Perhaps this is why Priest held onto Howson. Maybe he didn’t have a replacement at the ready. Hockey hires tend to work in one of two ways — either you hire from your inner circle (see: Doug Armstrong-Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis) or, if you don’t have an inner circle, you hire the guy with the best resume.

Which brings us back to Patrick. Resumes don’t get much better than his: He won the Sporting News NHL Executive of the Year three times and GMed the Penguins to two Stanley Cups, five division titles and 11 playoff berths.

So, could Patrick be coming on board as part of a succession plan? Possibly. He hasn’t held an NHL GM gig since 2006 and given the job scarcity (five GM jobs — Buffalo, Carolina, Washington, Detroit and Nashville — haven’t been available since the 90s), Columbus is as attractive an opportunity as any.

We also saw something similar in Calgary when Jay Feaster was hired to assist GM Darryl Sutter….only to replace him a few months later. (And Sutter was the guy that hired Feaster!)

  1. govtminion - Dec 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Damned fine choice if you’re going to re-build the Blue Jackets (or build in the first place, I suppose) into something to be feared. He did wonders for the Penguins, anyway. Hopefully they can Howson before the end of the season and give Patrick the chance to run the draft, if not the trade deadline, and keep Arniel in place to show that this isn’t all his fault.

  2. pens919209 - Dec 7, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Really astute hire – Patrick’s fingerprints are all over the current Penguins’ team (Crosby, Staal, Malkin, Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, and Fleury are all past picks of his).

    The question is if Columbus decides to fire Howson at some point, will they give Patrick the ability to make the necessary moves he needs to? In his later years with the Penguins, financial issues forced him to literally give away some really good players (Jagr for Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, Michal Sivek, anyone?). For the Blue Jackets’ sake, let’s hope they give him some room to work – if he ever becomes their GM.

    • rave7215 - Dec 7, 2011 at 5:12 PM

      Staal is a Shero pick

      • pens919209 - Dec 7, 2011 at 5:50 PM

        Ah, you’re correct there.

  3. east96st - Dec 7, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    I would more excited if Patrick was brought in to replace Priest. As long as Priest is still there, Columbus can’t move forward. Patrick will do his best, but Priest will handcuff him time and time again. I don’t care how good a guy is, is the guy above him vetoes his best moves, he won’t be effective. Of course, this will sold to the fans as a “major move” and “setting the team on the right path”. Sadly, some of the fans will believe it.

  4. killerpgh - Dec 7, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    I remember watch a show on the NHL last season an it was on the GM’s meeting. Patrick was given an award and during his speech he said he would to get back into it and help any GM out. Surprised it to this long for him to get another front office job with an NHL team.

  5. Jeff - Dec 7, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    I have a lot of respect for Craig Patrick. I hoe he can turn around the Jackets’ woes.

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