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Through the 5 Hole


February 3, 2010 4:23 PM

Hitchcock latest coaching casualty

And another coach bites the dust.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock today and named assistant Claude Noel interim coach.
Hitchcock is the third NHL head coach to get the axe this season, joining Philadelphia's John Stevens and St. Louis' Andy Murray. He won't be the last. These guys don't last much longer than the amount of time it takes for a carton of milk's expiration date to pass.
Hitchcock joined the Blue Jackets in November 2006 and was the league's sixth-longest tenured coach behind Anaheim's Randy Carlyle, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, Detroit's Mike Babcock, Nashville's Barry Trotz and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault.
That tells you all you need to know about the profession's job security.
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The Blue Jackets were expected to contend for a playoff spot in the tightly-bunched Western Conference this season after making the postseason a year ago for the first time in franchise history.
But after posting a 41-31-10 record last season -- and getting swept by Detroit in the first round of the playoffs -- the Blue Jackets have a 22-27-9 mark, are in last place in the Central Division and 11 points out of a playoff berth with 24 regular-season games remaining.
"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," Columbus general manager Scott Howson said in a statement.
"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.
"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."
The Blue Jackets have gotten a decent season from star forward Rick Nash, but they still don't score much and they've allowed more goals than any other team in the West.
Some of the blame for that goes to goalie Steve Mason, last season's Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year. He's been way below par this season with a bloated 3.28 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
Hitchcock also has been criticized for the team's younger players failure to make much progress.
Columbus split its last eight games under Hitchcock but looked listless in the final two periods of Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Colorado.

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