Scott Arniel had the poor fortune of becoming the seventh National Hockey League coach to be fired so far this season when the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets let him go on Jan. 9 after losing to the equally inept Anaheim Ducks the night before. The club announced that Arniel’s assistant coach, Todd Richards will take over the team for the remainder of the 2011/12 campaign.
This was Arniel’s second season in charge of Columbus and he had a 45-60-18 record in that time after 123 games behind the bench. At the time of his dismissal, the Blue Jackets were the worst team in the 30-team league with an 11-25-5 record and look certain to miss the playoffs again even though there’s still half a season to play.
Arniel has quite a bit of company this season when it comes to being an ex coach as the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have all replaced their head coaches thus far. Arniel led the Blue Jackets to a 34-35-13 record last season and was the fifth coach in the franchise’s history.
Arniel and the team dug themselves a huge hold at the start of the season by losing their first eight games and earning just a single point in the standings in the process. The team also lost six games in a row in December and has won two consecutive games on just one occasion so far this season. It seems the final straw came on Jan. 8 when the Blue Jackets were humbled 7-4 in Anaheim.
Scott Howson, the manager of the Blue Jackets said he wasn’t sure why the team struggled so much during the first half of the NHL season. He said Arniel worked hard at his job and did everything possible to succeed since he’s a good person and coach, but things just didn’t fall into place when the team hit the ice. What Howson didn’t mention was Arniel’s rocky relationship with some of his players as well as several members of the press.
The 45-year-old Richards of Minnesota was hired as an assistant coach by the club last summer and has head coaching experience in the league. He was the Minnesota Wild’s head coach for the last two seasons, but was let go after compiling a 77-71-16 record and missing the playoffs both of his seasons in charge in St. Paul. Before his stint in Minnesota, Richards worked with the San Jose Sharks as an assistant coach during the 2008-09 season.
He also served as the head coach for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League, which is the affiliate team of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He coached the club for two season 2006 to 2008 and compile a fine record of 98-49-13. He also led the team to the 2008 Calder Cup Finals. Even though Richards served as Arniel’s assistant, Howson said he expects him to bring a new and fresh approach to the table as the club attempts to turn its season around before it’s too late.