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If Scott Arniel is done, now who will Columbus look to hire?

Nov 7, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

Michel Therrien Getty Images

Now that the St. Louis Blues have come out and Ken Hitchcock blocked the Columbus Blue Jackets, what now for the Jackets who were rumored to be thinking of replacing Scott Arniel with their one-time head coach? While Hitchcock was presumed to be their top option, they’re now left to look around elsewhere if a move at the top is on the way. But who?

Here’s our short list of potential candidates now that the Blues have swept through and stolen the Jackets’ idea.

Michel Therrien

Therrien hasn’t seen the light of day behind a NHL bench since being fired by Pittsburgh in 2009. Therrien’s defensive-minded style of coaching is similar enough to Hitchcock’s in that it would potentially help out Steve Mason. The big question is: Has Therrien grown up enough to lead such a young team? He was good enough to help set the Penguins up for glory, doing the same in Columbus would make him a savior.

Scott Gordon

Gordon was seen to have gotten a raw deal when he was fired by the Islanders and Gordon is still thought to be one of the brighter young minds out there. He’s coached Team USA at the World Championships and now he’s Ron Wilson’s assistant in Toronto. He’ll get another head job soon but would Columbus roll the dice? Tough to think they’d do that after doing the same with Arniel.

Cory Clouston

Clouston has a tough reputation after his time in Ottawa. He made Dany Heatley want out of town but he also took an otherwise brutally talented Sens team to the playoffs in 2009. He’s tough on his players but a very smart hockey man. He’s got a good gig coaching the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, but if the NHL calls again he’d certainly answer. Much like Gordon, however, he might be seen as a roll of the dice.

Davis Payne

Hey, why not? It seems like Payne got a raw deal in St. Louis after the myriad of injuries the Blues have seen and his record in St. Louis, all told, was good (67-55-15). While he didn’t get the overtime/shootout losses needed to keep things afloat this year, the Blues played hard for him and were a threat to make the playoffs late the last two seasons. If he can snap things around in Columbus, that’d be the ultimate payback to the Blues for stealing their plans.

Todd Richards

He’s currently Arniel’s assistant right now and while Arniel likely didn’t feel the heat from that appointment before the season, perhaps that was the warning shot he needed. Richards struggled getting a system in place when he coached the Minnesota Wild for two seasons and having him fill Arniel’s shoes on an interim basis would likely be the easiest move to make. Whether that’s a long term fix, however, would be up for debate and might just be seen as a lateral move. The Jackets aren’t in need of a lateral move if they’re going to make the playoffs.

  1. contraryguy - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Just throw the dart at the board already. Pick someone, anyone. Or lose the fan base for good.

  2. Matt - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    I think Therrien could be a very good fit for the Jackets, but I’m actually a bit confused by one of your statements about the former Pens coach. In the article you ask if Therrien has “grown up enough to lead such a young team.” Didn’t he coach a young, aimless Penguins team? I honestly think this is one of the strong points to a Therrien choice. He was able to take a last-place Pittsburgh, give them direction, and make them learn to follow a system as a team.

    If he were hired, I think the question would be how long Therrien could last. As the team would grow with him, it’s very probable that they would outgrow his coaching style, even if they don’t outgrow his lessons. It’s what we saw out of the Pens – after 3-4 years of him, the team had grown and established a great foundation. It was only then that a switch made sense.

    And for Columbus fans, that 3-4 years would be well spent. Superstar centers aside, this Columbus team sounds similar to what the Pens offered prior to Therrien’s arrival. The team can’t defend, they can’t hold leads, and they lack identity. To expect the coach to get the same out of the Jackets as he did the Pens would be foolish (taking two teams from mess to Cup Final is extremely unlikely), but I do believe that he could get the Jackets to win and hold leads more consistently. And really, given how things have been for Columbus, wouldn’t that be quite the accomplishment anyway?

  3. flyerscup2010 - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    i’m throwing jacques lemaire out there, just for the lols

  4. east96st - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    First off, NO one is going to take this team to the playoffs this year. Ain’t happening with the invisible man in net. Second, any changes made without the wholesale firing of the entire front office is just window dressing to try to get fans into the seats. Mike Priest is the man at top. As long as he remains, it will be the same old Jackets forever. No coach can change the fact that this team starts a goalie that would not be a starter for most college teams, has a bloated payroll of grossly overpaid mediocre players, and the draft has been a disaster, with the exception of Nash, from the very start. You can’t pin any of that on Arniel and it will be the anchor around the neck of the next poor sap that takes the job. If any coach has ANY other options (working at McDonalds might be better), they would be wise to pass on this job. It will be a temporary hire and they will be, yet again, another sacrificial lamb who gets fired down the line to try hide that this is the most poorly run organization in the NHL.

  5. silverdeer - Nov 7, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    I think they should bring back Mike Keenan.

  6. sknut - Nov 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    It would be interesting to see Richards get another shot, not sure if he learned from his failures with the WIld. The players seemed to tune him out. The Jackets would seem to need someone to get on them right now.

  7. Brian - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Therrien’s a good bet. These things go in trends according to who last won the Cup. Dan Bylsma’s success led to a wave of teams hiring minor league coaches, i.e. Arniel, Boucher, Gulutzan, Payne. Claude Julien just won and he’s been around the block a couple times. That’ll be the trend now, and its already started with Hitchcock. Bob Hartley should make sure teams know his number in Switzerland.

  8. gscheelar - Nov 7, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Craig Ramsey? He did a good job with fair-to-middlin’ talent in ATL last year and could work well with the guys that CBJ has. This season is already a write-off, but Ramsey might be able to lay groundwork for something good next year.

    That being said, Scott Arniel is getting a raw deal. He’s a good coach who just does not have the horses to win with. Coaching change is not going to make a real difference until the talent is upgraded at virtually all positions.

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