NHL

Blue Jackets hire John Davidson

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

The Columbus Blue Jackets hope to turn around their fortunes by turning to former St. Louis Blues executive John Davidson.

Davidson will be announced as the club's president of hockey operations on Wednesday.

He will take the place of Mike Priest, who will concentrate only on the business side of the Blue Jackets. The team had the worst record in the NHL last season (29-46-7, 65 points).

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The 59-year-old Davidson, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, served as president of the Blues for the past seven years. He left the Blues when new owner Tom Stillman bought out his contract in an effort to cut costs in the front office.

He will report directly to Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell and would oversee general manager Scott Howson, who has come under fire for the team's disastrous play and dwindling attendance in recent years.

The Blue Jackets have had losing records in 10 of their 11 seasons. Their only respite was a short, four-game playoff sweep by Detroit in 2009. Their coach at the time was Ken Hitchcock, later hired by Davidson and the Blues after he was fired by Columbus. Hitchcock now is in charge of a Blues team that a year ago finished second in the Western Conference with 109 points.

During his time in St. Louis, Davidson helped the club acquire standouts such as forwards Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Chris Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Davidson has said he is intrigued by the Blue Jackets, who traded the club's most recognizable and dependable commodity this summer, Rick Nash. The Blue Jackets are young with a promising list of defensemen but big questions in net and when it comes to scoring.

Whenever the current lockout ends, Davidson likely will build around blue-liners Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin and forwards Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and Ryan Johansen. The goalies are Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Columbus traded Nash, the franchise's scoring, goals and games leader in addition to being captain, to the New York Rangers in July for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick. The Blue Jackets have three first-round draft picks next summer.

The problems that Davidson will face in Columbus are not unlike what he encountered when he first arrived in St. Louis. The Blues were last in the NHL in 2005-06 with 56 points but have gradually become one of the league's top teams. This past season, they lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs to eventual champion Los Angeles.

Davidson first met with the Blue Jackets in May because his Blues contract permitted him to look elsewhere when it became clear that St. Louis management would undergo a shakeup. A week after his buyout was finalized in October, Davidson met with the Blue Jackets and reportedly came away impressed.

A native of Ottawa, Ontario, raised in Calgary, Alberta, Davidson spent 10 years in the NHL with the Blues and Rangers. He had a career mark of 123-124-39, leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979.

After his playing days came to an end, Davidson became a popular NHL television analyst on several networks and stations. He received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster and was officially inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Tagged: Rangers, Blues, Blue Jackets, Rick Nash, Jack Johnson, Tim Erixon

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