Thursday, April 19, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Blue Jackets General Manager Doug MacLean Has Been Fired

An era has ended for Columbus hockey. Gone is the Prince Edward Island kingpin Doug "The Don" MacLean. (You can interpret that either way you want. You can choose between the Godfather Don Corleone, or Don McLean "Bye Bye Miss American Pie")

In a evening meeting of the CBJ ownership group, it was decided that MacLean's nine year tenure as Blue Jackets President and GM would come to a close. Doug took the reigns back in '98, well before the Blue Jackets ever took the ice. He was charged with developing the expansion team into a competitive professional squad. Since formally entering the league in 2000, the Jackets have posted six dismal seasons with losing records. Players, coaches, and even some fans have both come and gone in that span with no strong sign of improvement soon.

MacLean's termination from the organization has been long coming. After several consecutive unsuccessful trades and off-season pick-ups, followed by declining ticket sales and an overall inability to put a winning team on the ice, it is time for Doug to move along. Michael Arace of the Dispatch put together a great read detailing what went wrong during the MacLean era, in a concise yet complete article. (Though I have yet to grasp the Green Bay Packers comparison. You give it a shot.)

Doug takes with him a sizable portion of the CBJ budget. As per his multi-year contract, MacLean will take home his next year's salary, potentially in addition to a buy-out sum. In all, the CBJ organization stands to lose approximately $1.6 million by cutting MacLean's contract short. However, if this cash penalty is what is necessary to bring in proper management, then so be it.

So far, it has only been confirmed that MacLean himself is leaving. Unknown yet is the status of the rest of his administration and coaching staff that was recruited and hired specially by MacLean. These individuals include several Front Office staff members, as well as assistant coaches Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy. Jackets Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will be staying in Columbus- that much was confirmed by the Dispatch.

McConnell and the rest of the ownership group has committed themselves to personally finding a replacement for MacLean. They will likely act very quickly, as any incoming GM will need time to prepare for the upcoming NHL draft (which he will be hosting) as well as the offseason trades and player signings that happen during the summer. Michael Arace of the Dispatch speculated on who a few of the potential candidates may be. Notable candidates include Steve Tambellini, VP and Assistant GM of the Vancouver Canucks, and the former GM of the LA Kings. Also a potential replacement (and one that makes me a little nervous) is Mike Priest, president of JMac Inc- the parent company for the Blue Jackets.

I, amongst other CBJ bloggers and Dispatch writers are glad to see MacLean go. Most believe that Doug had many positive contributions to Columbus hockey, but failed to produce a successful team. Professional sports are a "what have you done for me lately?" world. It doesn't matter what someone did- it matters what they're doing- and MacLean's recent (read: last 2-3 seasons) efforts haven't exactly been awe-inspiring. He made several poor signings, weak trades and has overpaid for several players who under produced. All the while, the team has continued to stay below a .500 record, and has generally been out of the playoff hunt before the All-Star game.

Many readers and CBJ followers will remind us that it's not entirely MacLean's fault, and they're right. There have been and will continue to be many factors at play regarding professional hockey in Columbus. After all, the General Manager only indirectly affects what happens on the ice. He himself does not choose which net the puck goes into. MacLean gave a good effort in Columbus, and I'm sure he strove to succeed as much as we all wanted him to. But when you post the worst record in the league for the last six seasons combined, and are one of only two teams that have not made the playoffs at all during that time period, it's time for a reality check. In the business world, a CEO cannot continually post abnormally low, bottom of the barrel numbers year after year and expect to keep his job. When failure becomes a pattern and not a fluke, it's time to have him replaced. MacLean should be pleased he kept his position for this long. In the high pressure world of professional sports, winning is everything. You're either winning or you're not. And if you're not, you don't get to keep your job.

The TSN article that broke (best I can tell) the news was posted at 11:15 PM, Eastern Time. As a matter of fact, neither the Columbus NBC affiliate, nor the team website has posted the story yet. The only local press that has a story on their website at the time of this post is the Dispatch.

Related Jacket Times posts:
April 11, 2007
Is GM Doug MacLean stuck in 1996? 8 reasons why I think so.
March 7, 2007 CBJ GM Doug MacLean on Forbes List of Best GM's in Sports



Brandon said...

This has been the greatest day in Jackets history since the Nash draft, and maybe the Modin/Norrena for Denis deal. Also, maybe Neil Smith (former GM of the Islanders) could be in the shuffle. I'm also throwing my name in the hat. What's the worst they could do? Hire me?


sports723 said...

Damnit Brandon, this foils MY play to be the next GM of the CBJ. I agree, change was needed. I like the idea of Smith in Red White and Blue, but what about Pierre Guathier, asst. gm in Anaheim. The Ducks seem to be doing well with the CBJ talent in the Sergei trade. Also, what about Tom Lynn, asst. GM in Buffalo. These teams seem to be doing very well with the "team" concept, being able to go deeper than any other team. Also, they could go the Islander route, lets get Ron Tugnutt on the phone and make him GM, worked for Garth Snow.

Brandon said...

No worries 723, I'm gonna need an assistant.