Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A.C.E. In The Hole

Dare I say "love the team, like the direction?"

With the hire of John Davidson, that is absolutely true.  It will take a lot more to reach "love" status but at least I can ditch that "hate" word.

It doesn't matter how we got here, the fact of the matter is we are finally here, taking a HUGE step towards becoming a winning organization.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to write something positive about this organization for a change.  I must have been contacted by 10 different people asking me or telling me their opinion about this move to bring in John Davidson:

"What do you think about JD?"

"Glad to see cbj got Davidson"

"CBJ hire, a good one?"

"Nice move by CBJ today"

It felt good to say with a straight face that this is a big time legitimate attempt by ownership to address the real problems with this franchise.  That this move has franchise-altering potential -- it's that big.  Bigger than any trade.  Bigger than any coach hire/fire.  Bigger than any All Star Game.

There are six reasons why I love this move:

1. It moves Mike Priest out of hockey ops and into a role he's much better suited for, business ops.
2. Scott Howson, and the entire hockey operations department for that matter, now has an experienced hockey executive to answer to.
3. I like the fit for Davidson.  He comes into an organization desperate for someone to lead them.  He comes into an organization that has no place to go but up.  He comes into an organization in transition from the Rick Nash era.  He comes into an organization with 3 first round picks from which to build from.
4. Davidson is known to surround himself with proven hockey minds and is extremely well connected in this league.  He adds instant credibility.
5. Davidson knows how to market the game and rejuvenate fan interest.  I listened to his 97.1 The Fan interview on the way home and the guy is a phenomenal speaker.  This market needs this.
6. Full autonomy to make hockey related decisions.  This must be there for this to work.

John Davidson is what I'm calling our A.C.E. in the hole (yeah, I just made that up - but I'm running with it!).

A = accountability
C = culture
E = expectations

And as any honest poker player (do those exist?) will tell you, if you have enough ACEs in the hole, chances are pretty damn good you will be a winner.

This thing was never going anywhere until someone is able to fundamentally shift the accountability, culture and expectations pillars of this franchise and the only way that can happen is from the top down.  Hitch made a helluva a run at it, but hindsight being 20/20 -- he was just too far down the food chain without enough support to make it stick.   With the hire of John Davidson, ownership has now put a guy in the right position at the right time who has the power, experience and know-how to make it stick.

Sure he may fail, but you know what?   You've got to try something because what we have now has not worked and continuing with the status quo is the definition of insanity!  I'm thrilled ownership has reached this conclusion as well and if after a few years we find ourselves in the same spot -- that's when you ante up and try again, and many times as it takes to get it right!

Personally, if I were on the CBJ marketing staff, I'm having John Davidson record a message to the fans tonight and I spam it out to everyone.  Forget the All Star Game or this "Join the Battle" slogan, that stuff is like a bonus -- here one year, gone the next.  I start selling his plan, his resume, his road map for long term success because I believe that is what the long suffering fans want to hear.  I certainly know it's what I want to hear.

Now as Cap'n noted, John Davidson isn't perfect.  He can't waive a hockey stick and make things magically better over night, it will take some time.  Success, as we know all too well, is never guaranteed in this business and ultimately he will be judged just like everyone else -- on wins and losses.  It's also important to note that St. Louis didn't really take that big step until Doug Armstrong took over full time GM duties from Larry Pleau who in turn, hired Hitch as his coach last season.

While I'm personally prepared to give Davidson some time fix this thing, what I want to see is incremental improvement each season:

Priest/Howson's first 5 years:
2007-2008: 80
2008-2009: 92 (playoffs, swept in 1st round)
2009-2010: 79
2010-2011: 81
2011-2012: 65

AVG: 79.4

Davidson/Pleau/Armstrong's first 6 years:
2006-2007: 81
2007-2008: 79
2008-2009: 92 (playoffs, swept in 1st round)
2009-2010: 90
2010-2011: 87
2011-2012: 109 (playoffs, lost in 2nd round)

AVG: 89.6

The biggest difference is that Priest/Howson peaked in year #2 whereas the Davidson group took a couple of slight step backwards but ultimately peaked in year 6.  Davidson also took the Blues from a 57 point team to an 81 point team in his first season whereas Priest/Howson went from a 73 point team to 80 points.

I've been extremely critical of majority owner John P. McConnell but I also give credit where credit is due -- and without a doubt John P. McConnell (and Mike Priest from the sounds of it) deserve a ton of credit for bringing JD on board.  Make no mistake, this wasn't a cheap addition.  We're talking millions of dollars here.

So welcome to Columbus John Davidson.  I hope you've come to town with your hard hat on ready to roll up your sleeves as there is a lot of work to do!!



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