Blue Jackets fire Scott Arniel

Updated: January 9, 2012, 12:56 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The Columbus Blue Jackets have fired coach Scott Arniel. Assistant coach Todd Richards takes over on an interim basis until the end of the season, the team announced Monday.

Richards, who coached the Minnesota Wild from 2009-11, will make his debut as interim coach on Tuesday when Columbus visits the Chicago Blackhawks.

Just before meeting with the players on Monday morning, Richards said he did not plan wholesale changes.

"I've got a list of to-dos," he said. "I don't think it's big changes. It's little tweaks, little things here and there."

Arniel was hired as the fifth head coach in Blue Jackets history on June 8, 2010, and was 45-60-18 in 123 games, including an 11-25-5 mark this season.

"We have two wins in our last 11 games," general manager Scott Howson told ESPN.com. "I just wanted to move the team in a new direction with a different head coach. Scott tried everything and he was running out of answers. I didn't see much hope in moving forward with him. I just felt this needed to be done."

Richards was 77-71-16 as coach of the Wild before being fired.

The Blue Jackets have an NHL-low 27 points this season. Columbus lost 7-4 to Anaheim on Sunday night, and the Ducks' 30 points are the league's next-to-lowest total.

The Blue Jackets could have moved ahead of Anaheim (12-22-6) with a regulation victory. But the Ducks built a 4-1 lead against goaltender Steve Mason in the first period after outshooting Columbus 16-8.

Mason, the NHL rookie of the year in 2009, is 5-17-2 with a 3.46 goals-against average this season. He has allowed at least four goals in 12 of his 24 starts -- all losses.

Howson was on record with ESPN.com recently saying he also was going to be busy ahead of the Feb. 27 trade deadline making roster changes given the team's struggles.

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, a loyal assistant who was saddened by Arniel's firing, said it was a situation where everything seemed to go wrong.

"I don't think you could have thought about or created a scenario that actually got to this point," he said. "I don't think you could sit and dream it up. Just the things that went on, how we lost games and how it snowballed and manifested into bigger things."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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