After spending the last few days closing the sale of his home in St. Louis, former Blues President John Davidson is becoming more excited about his newest hockey challenge in Ohio.
Hired Oct. 24 as president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Davidson discussed the similarities between his last two places of employment.
Like the Blues of the not-so-distant past, who visit Columbus' Nationwide Arena on Thursday, the Blue Jackets have found themselves sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings while also struggling to consistently attract fans.
Enter the 59-year-old Davidson, whose ability to sell hockey and reconnect the Blues with their fan base helped lead the franchise back to prominence.
Under Davidson's watch, Blues' fans had some faith in the franchise restored and are now reaping the rewards of an organizational decision to rely primarily on home-grown talent.
"It's very similar to St. Louis," Davidson said. "When you're a club in a situation where you haven't had a lot of playoff games, you expect that. I remember the lean days in St. Louis when we only had 6,000 fans -- and those 6,000 were the greatest because they were there.
"We have good ownership here and a great facility, we just have to get our club going in the right direction. We've got some good parts, but we've got some work to do."
Davidson is proud of the Blues' growth and accomplishments during his seven seasons with the club. A year ago they tied for second overall in the NHL standings and won a first-round playoff series for the first time in a decade.
He believes it must be even more enjoyable for Blues fans, who basically grew up with young players like David Backes, T.J Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo and plenty of others.
"It's almost like going to watch your own kids, because they've watched these guys grow up," Davidson said. "They've watched them get bigger and better and stronger and more fit. There was a lot of anticipation for a guy like (Vladimir) Tarasenko. I understand the fans wanting to go see them."
The former NHL goaltender and Hall of Fame announcer is eager to see if the formula that worked in St. Louis will work in a city where Ohio State University sports have long been the main attraction.
In mid-December, Davidson presided over a town hall meeting that included more than 400 season-ticket holders. The Blue Jackets ranked 27th out of 30 NHL teams in attendance last season (an average of 14,660), so improving all aspects of the hockey club is imperative.
"It's a really nice city, very similar to St. Louis," Davidson said. "There's a good passion here for hockey, the youth programs have really come along with the club building some arenas. The hunger for the team to do well is really there, you can just sense they want it bad.
"That's our job to get there."
Davidson's contract was bought out when the new Blues ownership group headed by Tom Stillman purchased the club from the group led by Dave Checketts.
The Blue Jackets' only trip to the playoffs was with current Blues coach Ken Hitchcock in 2008-09. The franchise made a major shift in the offseason by dealing star forward Rick Nash to the New York Rangers.
Davidson has fond memories of the entire Blues' front-office team that helped lay the foundation for the team's growth.
"I credit a lot of different people for working their tails off to help rebuild the thing, to reconnect with the fans and the business community in St. Louis," Davidson said. "It's now back on its feet and in a good place. I'm really happy for them."
Blues at Columbus
Two teams headed in opposite directions will meet Thursday night in Columbus.
The Blues (5-1-0) are one of the NHL's hottest teams, while Columbus has struggled through a 2-4-1 start. Columbus is coming off a 3-2 loss to the same Minnesota Wild team that dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Blues on Sunday.
This is the Blues' best start since a 7-1 beginning in 1997-98 and they are allowing an NHL-low 19.5 shots per game. Columbus has just 13 goals in seven games, while the Blues have scored 24 in their first six.
Blues center Patrik Berglund has two goals and four points during a three-game point streak, while Vladimir Sobotka and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko also have three-game scoring streaks.
Blues winger David Perron has two goals and five points in his last two games, while defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo have combined to contribute one goal and 14 assists.