On the surface, you can kind of understand what Columbus Blue Jackets general manager -- for now, at least -- Scott Howson was doing on Monday.
For the last couple weeks, his team has been a part of almost every major trade rumor that could be found. A big reason for that was the not-so-subtle efforts Howson made to trade team captain, cornerstone and lone star player Rick Nash.
Those efforts ended up unsuccessful, as Monday's NHL trade deadline passed without any team giving up what Howson wanted in return for Nash -- the asking price was believed to be an NHL player, a prospect, and a first-round pick. Instead of pretending that he didn't try to trade Nash, Howson decided to be up front about the situation.
In doing so, Howson presented a bit of news that might prove to be his ticket out of Columbus. The general manager announced -- completely unsolicited -- that it was Nash who went to management and requested they trade him. Howson may have been trying to cast Nash as the bad guy among the Blue Jackets fans, but the reality is that Howson harmed no one but himself with his decision to go public.
There are plenty of reasons for what Howson did, most notably the fact that a Nash trade seems inevitable at this point, and it seems obvious that Nash is picky about what teams he's willing to waive his no-trade to go to. He's not going to get less picky by being made to wait until the summer to be dealt. Howson was probably irritated by Nash's agent going to the media and making it clear that Nash's list isn't going to suddenly expand because the season ends.
However, Howson's attempt to put all the heat on Nash could easily backfire. Sure, Nash requested the trade, but who the heck can blame him? Things in Columbus have gone from bad to worse this year, with the team floundering as the worst in the NHL from virtually the start of the season. Howson waited too long to pull the trigger on a coaching change, not that making it earlier would have been guaranteed to help much.
He hasn't inspired confidence with some of his moves, either. The Jeff Carter trade was a disaster, as the forward wanted nothing to do with Columbus, and he underperformed before being shipped to Los Angeles last week. That trade may not work out totally in the Blue Jackets' favor, but at least Jack Johnson is saying the right things about being a part of that deal. A guy like Sammy Pahlsson can be a valuable part of a championship run, but Columbus got just a couple mid-round picks for him from Vancouver, a team that is likely to make a championship run.
This isn't all Howson's fault, but it's hard to blame Nash for getting frustrated with the team obviously going into rebuilding mode around him, while he feels that he's about to enter the prime of his career. No star player wants to spend the prime of his career on a rebuilding team.
(Especially when the rebuilding team didn't have much to start with).
Could Nash have handled his frustrations better? Perhaps. Maybe Howson wasn't happy with the agent going public and basically making it clear Nash will eventually force a deal to a place he wants to go. But how can you blame Nash for making a private trade request without going to the media with the issue? Remember, no one thought this was Nash's idea until Howson told us it was.
This situation in Columbus is going to get uglier before it gets prettier. Should ownership really be allowing Howson to pull the trigger on a franchise-altering trade like "Nash to Wherever for Whatever" this summer, or anytime? Or is this the first step toward Howson's eventual departure from Columbus' only major pro sports franchise?
Either way, it's not a good thing for the city. The boost hockey fans got in Columbus by being named the host city for next year's All Star Game didn't last long, as it now seems likely the NHL will be visiting the home of one of its worst teams for the mid-season showcase event.