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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Stickin to the Plan...

Ok, he says we're going to "Build through the Draft" but uhm...we need a GM to do that right? Not, the interim guy who will be gone the second we hire someone else. I know I am a bitter fan right now...but this is MY team. I want what is best for them...I don't want this guy going into the draft making draft picks for our organization...it's so stressful and what about Free Agency?? What are we supposed to do? We need certain things in our organization. The fans know that...hell everyone knows that. I'm' frustrated sorry.

Blue Jackets president says fans have heard enough idle words


Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Columbus Blue Jackets will build off the draft, develop young players, disdain quick fixes and be based on a long-term plan instead of hollow promises, new team president Mike Priest promised on Wednesday.

Priest, hired when Doug MacLean was fired as president and general manager in April, is in the process of interviewing prospective general managers. He said he has at least four names on his list, including Blue Jackets interim GM Jim Clark and director of player personnel Don Boyd.

As much as he would love to have a GM in place by the time the franchise hosts the NHL draft in two weeks, he won't be hurried.

"Some of the (fans) are just tired of words," he said during a far-reaching interview in his Nationwide Arena office. "They want to see action. You want to be positive, you want to believe in what you're doing; we're not going to change that aspect. But we're going to be honest with ourselves and we're going to be honest with our fans. We're going to establish a plan and stick to that plan."

MacLean was there at the beginning when owner John H. McConnell started the club. It was MacLean who oversaw the drafts, signed free agents, made trades and sculpted the public perception of the franchise. After six years of missing the playoffs - the Blue Jackets are the only one of the league's 30 teams to never make the postseason - he was fired.

Priest, an executive in another arm of McConnell's businesses, never mentioned MacLean by name. But he made it clear that he has been told to go in a different direction.

Priest declined to confirm the other candidates on his list. Names that have been floated for the job include Calgary Flames GM Craig Button and three current assistant general managers: Scott Howson of Edmonton, Dallas' Les Jackson and Vancouver's Steve Tambellini.

Even fans have tried to lend a hand.

"I'm reading the letter and she's talking about how her dream has always been to be in hockey. And why she's been successful in everything she has ever done and she's reeling me in bigtime. I'm thinking anytime she's going to say she wants the job," Priest said with a laugh. "But she says, 'I'm also very realistic to know that I have no shot. So I'm going to do the next best thing, I think you ought to consider X' and gave me a recommendation."

Priest said the Blue Jackets under MacLean pushed young players into the NHL too soon. Franchise stars Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche and Gilbert Brule have started out as teens. Whether that's the reason or not, their production has been erratic. As a result, the team's fortunes have been erratic.

"We're going to ultimately build through youth, that's what markets our size need to do," said Priest, 42. "But it takes time for kids to develop. There's no doubt that most people recognized within our organization that we've pushed that in trying to get there as quickly as we can. And there's just no shortcuts. Now we have to step back and do what's right."

Priest also made it clear that the Blue Jackets hope to avoid older, high-priced players. MacLean locked the team into large, lengthy contracts with Sergei Fedorov, Bryan Berard and Adam Foote, which has limited the club's options.

"In the unrestricted free-agent market, everyone's wanting the same people and so their salaries are outrageous and their terms are too long and they're generally at an age where they're at their peak or just past their peak and they're being paid for past performance," Priest said.

To the very end of his tenure, while the Blue Jackets were going 33-42-7 and missing the playoffs by a mile, MacLean remained optimistic about the club's future.

"We've got an unbelievable foundation in place," he said during the club's last game of this past season. "I'm telling you, I look around the league and how many teams would I trade ours for? Not many."

But Priest said MacLean "probably thought we were a little farther along than we really were."

Blue Jackets season-ticket sales are 8 percent to 10 percent behind where they were a year ago, but more than 80 percent of the team's fans have renewed their tickets, Priest said.

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