John Davidson's job? Make Columbus Blue Jackets relevant

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

After basically building the Blues from rock bottom into an NHL contender, John Davidson's latest challenge is a franchise that knows "rock bottom" all too well.

Ever since it became abundantly clear that John Davidson was no longer going to be a part of the St. Louis Blues organization, many were pointing to Columbus as a potential destination.

Though Davidson's work with the Blues wasn't really complete -- as the team has yet to advance to even the conference finals under his leadership -- a front office restructuring under new ownership hastened his departure. It left the prominent former broadcaster-turned-executive one of the bigger free agents around that doesn't lace 'em up for his team.

The 59-year-old Davidson was one of the great voices of the game when former Blues owner Dave Checketts hired him to run the team's hockey operation in 2006. He took over as the face of the franchise, steering the Blues back toward respectability. When Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach last year, Davidson's vision became reality. St. Louis finished second in the Western Conference, won the rough-and-tumble Central Division, and blew by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. St. Louis was swept by Los Angeles in the second round, ending the Blues' season, but there is plenty of hope for this team going forward, largely thanks to the work Davidson did in his time there.

In seeking his next challenge, Davidson appears to have found a pretty daunting one.

A Wednesday press conference will introduce the Davidson as the new president of the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

It's not a stunning move, as Davidson has been linked to Columbus for months. But the long courtship doesn't make the task any less difficult.

Davidson took over a team that posted 57 points in the 2005-2006 season, and he found a way to get the Blues going in the right direction. Columbus had 65 points last season, good for dead last in the NHL, and the Blue Jackets stuck out like a sore thumb in a division where every other team made the playoffs.

While general manager Scott Howson -- along with Chris MacFarland and Craig Patrick -- will stick around at least for the time being, Davidson becomes the franchise's front man. He'll have full control of the operation, with the authority to make whatever decisions he sees fit.

Between a 65-point season, the Rick Nash trade, the kerfluffle that led to the Nash trade, a rash of harmful injuries, Howson's lack of popularity within the fanbase, and the fact that Columbus is set to host the 2013 NHL All-Star Game (one that appears highly unlikely to happen), things haven't gone well in Columbus.

From the outset, Davidson's biggest job will be to rebuild the trust of the fans. Columbus was in the league's bottom five in attendance, averaging fewer than 15,000 tickets distributed per game. Actual attendance for many games appeared much lower than that.

This is a vibrant market. There are loyal hockey fans in Columbus, people who deserve better than what they've gotten from this team since it came into the league. Columbus' Arena District is a fun, vibrant area, and there's no reason this team can't attract and retain top talent, outside of its track record.

Davidson made a seemingly-seamless transition from the broadcast booth to the front office in St. Louis. Columbus ownership is counting in a similarly seamless transition from St. Louis to Columbus. If that happens, Davidson will be worth every penny he is paid for his time there.

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