The Ken Hitchcock era is over in Columbus. Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson announced today that the club has relieved Hitchcock of his coaching duties. Howson also announced that Assistant Coach Claude Noel will fill in as an interim head coach for the the remainder of the season.
Hitchcock was hired November 22, 2006 to replace former Jackets head coach, and Doug MacLean favorite, Gerard Gallant. In just over three seasons with the Blue Jackets, Hitchcock compiled a record of 125-123-36. Last season he led the franchise to its first playoff appearance, only to be swept in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.
In 14 seasons as a head coach with Dallas, Philadelphia and Columbus, Hitchcock has a record of 533-349-88-70. He led the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup title. On February 19, 2009 he became the 13th coach in NHL history to win 500 career games by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This season has been very disappointing for the Blue Jackets organization and our fans and the responsibility for that rests with all of us from management to the coaches and players,” said Howson. “Hitch worked tirelessly to build an identity for this team that was missing before he arrived and deserves a great deal of credit for those efforts. He earned and received the opportunity to turn things around this season, but unfortunately that has not happened and it has become apparent that change is in the best interest of our organization.”
Noel joined the Blue Jackets prior to the 2007-2008 season. Before that, He spent four seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals where he compiled a regular season record of 183-94-12-31. In 2003-2004, Noel led the Admirals to the Calder Cup championship and received the AHL’s Coach of the Year honors.
“Claude Noel is a good hockey coach with a proven track record in the American Hockey League. He knows our team and is deserving of this opportunity,” said Howson.
Noel will look to attempt to salvage what has been a dismal season for the Blue Jackets starting Thursday against Hitchcock’s former team the Dallas Stars. For those of you keeping track at home, Hitchcock’s first game behind the Blue Jackets bench was against the Flyers.
I’ll do some digging and have a list of potential replacements with some background tomorrow.