Blue Jackets introduce Arniel as coach
The Columbus Blue Jackets officially announced Scott Arniel as their new head coach on Tuesday.
General manager Scott Howson introduced the 47-year-old Arniel, who becomes the fifth permanent coach in the franchise's history.
"I thought it was the perfect fit for me at this time," Arniel said at the news conference announcing his hiring.
Ken Hitchock was fired as head coach of Columbus in February, with Claude Noel taking over on an interim basis.
Arniel is 181-105-10-19 in four seasons with Manitoba of the American Hockey League. The Moose made it to the Calder Cup final in 2009, losing to Hershey for the AHL's championship.
He has also served as an assistant on Lindy Ruff's staff in Buffalo. Arniel played for both the Sabres and Winnipeg Jets in an NHL playing career that lasted over a decade.
"When I got the call yesterday, I thought it was going to be the 'thanks for coming' speech,"' Arniel said with a laugh. "But it was the other way. It did kind of floor me. But I jumped in my car and drove to my wife's business. My son met me over there. I just said to her, 'I don't have anything to wear.' She didn't know what I was talking about and I said, 'I've got to go to Columbus tomorrow.' And they both came out of their shoes."
Guy Boucher of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's AHL affiliate, reportedly turned down the job and is expected to be hired as the Tampa Bay Lightning coach.
"Scott Arniel possesses all the qualities we were looking for in a head coach and we are very pleased to have him join the Blue Jackets organization," Howson said in a statement. "He played in the NHL for many years, was an assistant coach in the league and has been successful in developing young players. Scott has been one of the top coaches in the American Hockey League the past four years, averaging 45 wins and 99 points a season playing an attacking, up-tempo game."
It's not the first time the Blue Jackets have faced such a scenario. Howson himself was hired not long after Bob Murray opted to stay with the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the first time in history in 2008-09, but suffered a 13-point drop the past season. The club went 12-6-2 to start the season, but then swooned to a 3-14-7 mark in games played between Nov. 21 and Jan. 7. The Jackets finished 14th in the Western Conference.
Columbus was done in by a lack of timely goal scoring and a dip in the play of sophomore goalie Steve Mason, the league's rookie of the year the previous season.
Mason picked up his play late in the season, and the team is led by star Rick Nash.
"I’ve been impressed by a lot of what I see here," said Arniel. "I see myself as a young coach and this is a young, talented team with great potential, and I am ready to get to work."
"I think it's a good fit. Do I know him as a person? No. Do I know a whole lot about him? I know he's done well, he was well-liked as an assistant with Buffalo," defenceman Mike Commodore said. "His time has come for him to get a shot, and I hope it works out. I hope it works out great."
Arniel and Boucher are the latest to make the jump from the American league, a trend that has accelerated in recent years with the hirings of Bruce Boudreau, Scott Gorton, Dan Bylsma and Cory Clouston, among others.