Utter Madness: Columbus Fires Four Amateur Scouts After the Draft


The following article is about the Columbus Blue Jackets, which makes it something of an oddity. I wrote it because it deals with NHL processes and decision making- two things that are frequently discussed here. Also, it’s nice to notice that other franchises can be more awful in how they’re run.

A strange thing happened after the 2012 NHL Entry Draft had ended: the Columbus Blue Jackets fired four amateur scouts including the assistant director of amateur scouting. Seeing a number of hockey operations personnel fired at the same time isn’t that unusual in and of itself. It most frequently happens when new management- whether a GM, team president, or owner- comes in. It rarely happens after the major event in which those personnel are involved has ended.

No real reason has been given for the firing, as far as I’m aware, but it’s hard to imagine a reason that makes sense. Let’s run down the possibilities.


1. Columbus didn’t like the advice the scouts gave during the draft


This doesn’t begin to make logical sense: the scouts should be giving advice well before the draft, and if it’s poor advice, management should be ignoring it. If they are being given poor advice before the draft, then management should also be firing them before the draft. If management isn’t taking amateur scouting advice before the draft at all, then management should really be fired.


2. Columbus just decided that a decade* of poor drafting was too much


*All of the fired scouts but one had been with the team since 2001. This basically falls under the last category: why wait until the 2012 Draft had ended? If Howson and company were really that sick of their services, they should’ve been fired before the draft.


3. Columbus decided to cut payroll.


If this is indeed the case, that’s a profoundly shit way to cut payroll. Wait until after the most important day of the year for them and give them a big ol’ severance check? And if you’re cutting payroll- why target the guys who can make or break your team in the future? 

No matter what the reason is for this firing, it’s so amazingly and profoundly idiotic that no team but the Blue Jackets could have done it.

Aaron Portzline, Jackets beat reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, says that John Williams, the aforementioned assistant director of amateur scouting, was heavily involved in drafting both Ryan Johansen two years ago and Ryan Murray this year. Why fire a guy who did a bang-up job your eighth overall and who you just entrusted with your second overall?

Moreover- the team had just started getting good results from drafting- Cam Atkinson, David Savard, Ryan Johansen are all excellent young players or prospects- and Boone Jenner, Cody Goloubef and Matt Calvert have tons of potential too.

And yet- the Jackets had an entirely forgettable draft this year- taking two goalies (one at 31st overall while several high quality skaters were still available), a NHL ready defenseman who has limited upside, and a bunch of mediocre players. Perhaps the scouts were fired for disagreeing with such an insane draft strategy, but even then, firing them for disagreeing is probably the most insane reason for firing.

No matter how you shake it, none of this makes any amount of sense- aside from the sort of sense you get when you say “A team fired four of their amateur scouts directly after the draft- of course it’s the BJs.

  • Arik

    Theory, they decided to fire them a bit ago but they didn’t have anyone that could do their job ready by the draft and they didn’t want any of the four leaking their draft list.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      At my most charitable this, or something like it, would be my answer.

      They made the decision… but put off the reality until the fanfare died down in order to keep media and fan pressure off their draft process and their unrolling of the new kids.

      Even if that were the case, however, you’d still think they’d do it later. Why? because doing it right after the draft sends the signal that maybe mgt. didn’t like the draft outcome and that occasions scrutiny of the draftees and the process.

      Any way you slice it… effed up move.

  • Derzie


    The only thing leaking their draft list would have done was that other teams were going to laugh at Columbus before the draft rather than after it.

    Pretty sure this is all cost cutting, unless you hear that they are replacing them down the line, the Columbus is going to save money however it can.

    OR, Maybe this is just the final straw and Howson just didn’t care for his scouts. Other than the last several years, for the most part, Columbus’ draft picks have been pretty well the laughing stock of the NHL. Maybe the scouts contracts are up in a couple of days just like most coaches/management types who’s contracts are all up around now(techinically Brent Sutter is still Calgary property), and its not a firing so much as their contracts are not being renewed, technically the same thing. Letting them know early is just a way of giving them an earyl start on finding new work.

    Or it could just be the fumblings of probably some of the worst management in the entire NHL. Cause thats the one I lean most towards, when has Columbus done anything right, this would just be added to the long list of crap that doesn’t make sense that makes the rest of the league realize why Columbus always drafts in the top 10.

    • Arik

      I’m pretty sure scouts- like most other non-coach staff- are employed on an at-will or continual basis.

      Also Portzline said they got severance packages- that probably wouldn’t have happened if their contracts were expiring.

  • Arik

    This really isn’t as big of news as some are making it out to be. Word leading up to the draft was that their scouts, including Head Amateur Scout Tyler Wright, had contracts that expired June 30th, and that some/none/all would/could be renewed. Portzline himself said this. Essentially, they gave the four guys they chose not to renew a 7 day head start on finding a new job.

  • Arik

    Hmm … let’s see. If the entire Jackets organization is in utter turmoil, you can’t very well fire the GM, can you? You have to have *some* consistency at *some* position. And if that position is the GM, so much the better for Howson.

    About those Blue Jackets … if there was any doubt about it, the Jeff Carter trades removed any doubt that the Jackets organization is essentially posionous. Carter goes there and underperforms despite his 11-year megamillion dollar contract. Then they trade Carter to LA and he transforms into a key cog in a killer Stanley Cup Championship team.

    No wonder Nash wants out. The question is, does anyone want in? Players are going to start asking for “no-trade-to-Columbus” clauses in their contracts.

    The only way Columbus will ever get better, IMO, is to completely replace the people at the top and start over.

    Oh, but they just fired their scouting staff. We can’t replace the GM at the same time. Better give him another year….

  • everton fc

    They shuold move the franchise…

    I’ve aleays wondered why the Jackets didn’t focus more on American talent. Columbus is a college town, home to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Any U.S. kid into sports knows all about Ohio State, and many wouldn’t mind living in a college town. They tend to be good places to live, and raise families. Lots of support, I’d think, for wives… Great facilities off-season.

    Instead, they do anything but build with Yanks. Might have worked for them.

    I’ll always be puzzled by this…

  • Arik

    June 3:

    @AportzlineDispatch: As NHL draft and free agency come into focus, #CBJ ‘s amateur and pro scouts face uncertain futures w club http://t.co/ktGGj8b9

    ALL of their scouts had contracts that ended June 30th and were well aware of their status leading up to the draft. Howson told them all that they would have a meeting after the draft to discuss their futures. If they just let their contracts expire, no one would say a thing. But because they were “fired” right after the draft, its “utter madness”. Some of these guys have been with the club since its inception, and have done a piss-poor job & Columbus rightly let them go.

  • Derzie

    Further to that, Columbus fired their head amateur scout last yr, replacing him ftom within with Tyler Wright. All scouts were signed to a 1 yr deal so Wright could get accustomed to the gig, at which timr he would start to put together his own staff.

  • everton fc

    Certainly sends the wrong message to anyone pondering a move to this organization.

    Be it player, scout, coach… Not an inviting situation to put oneself into for any term.

    Agreed: Bush-league move from a bush-league franchise. Their fans deserve better than this.

  • Stockley

    The Jackets have become the model for how NOT to run a team. They treat their captain like a leper. They rushed their potential franchise goalie to the NHL and then watch him fizzle because he wasn’t given time to develop. They wipe the slate of their entire scouting staff before the clean up crew in Pittsburgh even got to start cleaning up the arena. There’s a reason they had to pay Wiz three times what he’s worth to convince him to come play. They just aren’t a destination any notable free agent will consider, they are at least 6 years away from being a contender to even make the playoffs.

    So anytime one of us starts lamenting the state of the Flames we need to just take a look down to Ohio. At least our organization isn’t the Blue Jackets. Say what you want about Calgary and their ability to develop prospects, draft, etc… they at least have a reputation for being classy and treating their personnel like human beings rather than faceless assets. So far we haven’t thrown our captain under the bus.

    (If they do anything to make me eat those last words it might be time to follow through on past threats to have a front-yard bonfire with all my jerseys, t-shirts, etc.)

  • Stockley

    Thanks RCN, I figured scouts like most other management guys were on Contracts, thanks for clearing it up. The firings make a little more sense with the new head scout and all that with contracts ending, so not utter maddness, but still pretty stupid of Columbus to fire them rather than let them walk, though if it gives them a nice severence package than thats nice of Hoswon.

    Now onto the apparent trade between Howson and Snow, Howson should be so fired if he turned that down, and Snow should be fired for even thinking about the trade. That apparent trade makes firing a bunch of scouts seem like nothing.

  • RexLibris

    “John Williams, the aforementioned assistant director of amateur scouting, was heavily involved in drafting both Ryan Johansen two years ago and Ryan Murray this year. Why fire a guy who did a bang-up job your eighth overall and who you just entrusted with your second overall?”

    Johansen was picked 4th overall in 2010. The eighth overall to which I think you are referring was the one moved in the Carter deal.

  • RexLibris

    So bringing this around to a Flames focus: Would Mr. Williams be of interest to add to the Flames scouting corps?

    Before anyone is too quick with the condemnation, ask yourselves if Williams’ draft record since 2001 is any better or worse than the Flames (adjusting for draft position)?

  • RexLibris

    WIthout knowing if its Howson making the final say or how much input the scouts truly say, its hard to say if he should be given an oppurtunity. I really like what the flames how done these last two drafts and don’t really see a need for him here.

  • MC Hockey

    Timing looks very bad but if contracts actually end on June 30 then perhaps a favor was done for those 4 scouting guys. Whatever whatever…does not affect Canadian teams so who cares?