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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After weeks of lopsided losses and blown leads, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired second-year coach Scott Arniel.
Under Arniel, the Blue Jackets were just 11-25-5 this season — the worst record in the NHL.
Assistant coach Todd Richards will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season. Richards was 77-71-16 as head coach of the Minnesota Wild from 2009-11. His first game leading Columbus will be Tuesday night in Chicago.
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson announced the firing Monday, the morning after the club’s latest dreadful loss in a 7-4 setback at Anaheim. The Ducks came into the game just one point ahead of the Blue Jackets’ league-low 27 points but dominated throughout.
The Blue Jackets have blown eight games in which they led heading into the final period, the most in the NHL by a wide margin.
Arniel was hired as the fifth head coach in Blue Jackets history on June 8, 2010, and compiled a 45-60-18 record in 123 games.
In his first season, the Blue Jackets were a respectable 34-35-13 despite a lineup that included only one certifiable top-line player in perennial All-Star forward Rick Nash.
Last summer, Howson met the demands of many frustrated fans when he pulled off a major deal with Philadelphia to bring in high-scoring star Jeff Carter. Howson also traded for the rights to James Wisniewski and then signed him to a lucrative contract, locking up a puck-moving defenseman the franchise had long needed. Established veterans Vinny Prospal and Radek Martinek were also brought aboard.
But, for the most part, the season has been a disaster.
Wisniewski sat out the first eight games for a head shot on Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck in an exhibition game, and Carter was injured and missed games while Columbus stumbled to a 1-9-1 start — the worst in franchise history.
Martinek also has sustained a concussion which has kept him out most of the season. To add to the Blue Jackets’ woes, Carter suffered a separated shoulder in Sunday night’s loss at Honda Center and will likely be out for an extended period.
Arniel was not Howson’s first choice as head coach when he was hired. The job had been offered to Guy Boucher, who turned it down and then later took the top job with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Arniel joined the Blue Jackets after serving as head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose from 2006-10. He led the Moose to a 181-106-33 record and four Calder Cup Playoffs appearances.
But his message didn’t resonate with players and the team never showed any consistency under him. The club started his first season with a 14-6-0 record, but since then, it is 31-54-18 with only eight regulation wins in the last 63 games.
Richards, now 45 and in his first year with Columbus, was named Minnesota’s second head coach and led the club to a 38-36-8 record in 2009-10 and a 39-35-8 mark in 2010-11.
He was an assistant with San Jose in 2008-09 before being hired by the Wild.
Arniel’s firing and Martin’s hiring were announced to the team on Monday morning in California.
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