Cursed season continues in Columbus
After a dismal 7-4 loss in Anaheim dropped the Blue Jackets to a hideous 11-25-5 Sunday, nobody was surprised that coach Scott Arniel had been relieved of his duties.
While the team struggled right out of the gate this season, a foot injury cost high-scoring forward Jeff Carter 10 games. Along with an eight-game suspension doled out to defenseman James Wisniewski as a result of a hit in a preseason game, two big off-season acquisitions were scratched from Arniel's lineup card.
Carter was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers over the summer while Wisniewski was signed as a free agent in early July. After the pair returned to the lineup, the Blue Jackets turned things around slightly, but two wins in their last 11 games was enough for Arniel to earn an ouster.
"I just thought it was time to move the team in a new direction," general manager Scott Howson told the Columbus Dispatch. "He did everything he could. He's a good coach. He's a good person. He worked very hard at it. The team was prepared, and it just didn't work for him with this group."
In a somewhat ironic twist, Carter suffered a shoulder injury in what turned out to be Arniel's last game behind the Columbus bench. Wisniewski broke his ankle on Dec. 29 and will be sidelined an additional six weeks.
Former Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards, hired as an assistant by Arniel over the summer, was named interim coach for the remainder of the season. Richards was 77-71-16 in two seasons with the Wild.
"Todd's got some experience as a head coach," Howson said. "He will bring a fresh approach and a new voice. We will try to move this in the right direction."
If Richards is unable to breathe any life into the Blue Jackets, he could very well be the next one relieved of his duties in Columbus.
For a little salt in the Blue Jackets' wounds, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Tuesday night, improving the Blues to 19-5-5 under Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock, who took over in St. Louis after Davis Payne was fired earlier this season, was under contract in Columbus and his name was bandied about as a potential replacement for Arniel when the Blue Jackets struggled early.
Central Division notes:
The Chicago Blackhawks will be without Patrick Sharp for up to a month after he sustained an upper-body injury in Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the division rival Detroit Red Wings. In 42 games played this season, Sharp has a balanced scorecard of 20 goals and 20 assists. ... After an 0 for 5 effort on the power play Tuesday night in their 5-2 loss to Chicago, the Blue Jackets have just one power-play marker in 23 opportunities over their last eight games. ... Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock entered Tuesday's action with 399 career wins, and a game against the Atlantic Division's worst team in the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect opportunity for Babcock to reach win number 400. But the Islanders had other ideas and dealt Babcock and his Red Wings a 5-1 loss, meaning Babcock's milestone victory will have to wait until at least Thursday when the Phoenix Coyotes visit Joe Louis Arena. Pavel Datsyuk missed Tuesday's game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. ... With their 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators extended their winning streak over the Avs to six games. In those six games, the Predators have outscored Colorado 26-12. Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis has scored two goals and had two assists in his last two games played for the Predators. Both of his goals were on the power play. ... St. Louis Blues G Jaroslav Halak played his first game in Montreal since the Canadiens shipped the Slovakian to the Gateway City in June of 2010. He defeated his old mates 3-0 Tuesday night and was given a standing ovation afterward by the crowd in Montreal. It was pretty emotional even to watch all the attention he was getting around town," Blues captain David Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "All the newspapers, his face was on three different sections. For him to come in, have composure and come away with the shutout, it's a pretty special story." ... Following the game, Halak's agent Allan Walsh was quick to take to Twitter to note Halak's success in the Bell Centre. "Jaroslav Halak: 37-15-3 (.700%) is the best all time among goalies at Bell Centre," Walsh wrote.