Scott Howson must be wondering just how he angered the hockey gods.
The latest blow for the Columbus Blue Jackets general manager came Tuesday morning when he had to put No. 1 centre Jeff Carter on the injured reserve list. Carter has a hairline fracture on the top of his left foot, the same foot that was surgically repaired with a metal plate in the summer of 2010. His status is listed as "week-to-week," according to a Blue Jackets press release.
Carter was the centrepiece of Howson's revamping of the Blue Jackets' lineup, coming over from the Philadelphia Flyers in a big trade. Now, five games into the NHL season, he joins fellow forwards Kristian Huselius and Jared Boll and backup goaltender Mark Dekanich on the injured list.
This is on top of missing defenceman James Wisniewski, who was signed to a huge contract as a free agent last summer. He was suspended for the first eight games of the season by NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan for check to a player's head during a preseason game.
Add it all up and the Blue Jackets are 0-4-1 going into Tuesday's home game against the Dallas Stars and showing little sign of life. Carter and linemates Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal was the only Jackets forward unit that was doing any scoring and their defence is awfully wobbly, too.
Howson and head coach Scott Arniel are in one hell of a spot. They need to make the playoffs this season or the unemployment line beckons. Right now, their chances are slim.
After 11 years in the league with one fleeting appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blue Jackets are looking at plummeting fan support. The slide started four years ago when Howson was hired to turn things around after Doug MacLean was fired as GM.
Howson has not made much of a difference in the team's fortunes and owner John P. McConnell made it clear a few years ago he was not able to cover the annual losses, which moved north of $10-million (all currency U.S.), indefinitely.
McConnell did manage to strike a deal with the city of Columbus to buy Nationwide Arena and subsidize the cost of its operation in exchange for promising not to move the team. Nationwide Realty Investments also bought 30 per cent of the Blue Jackets and agreed to a new naming-rights deal for the arena, which injected much-needed cash into the operation.
But the team still needs fans to succeed and they show no signs of coming back given its struggles to start the season. The Jackets announced a sellout crowd of 18,247 for their season-opener but both home games since drew crowds of less than 10,000.
Howson and Arniel are now officially on the clock as the first NHL executive tandem on the hot seat.