Hockey

Blue Jackets fire MacLean as president, GM

Longtime Columbus Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean has been relieved of his duties after the NHL team missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Longtime Columbus Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLeanhas beenrelieved of his duties after the NHL team missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Team spokesman Todd Sharrock confirmed MacLean's firing Thursday morning and said team officials would hold a news conference later in the day.

The news of MacLean'sdismissal took Blue Jackets tough guy Jody Shelley by surprise.

"As a player, I'm really surprised," he said. "You hear the rumours but you just figure it comes with not meeting expectations. Then when the other shoe drops, you're still shocked.

"It's a business, but at the same time there's a human side. A guy lost his job today, a guy who was passionate and did some great things for this organization."

MacLean, 53, was turfedafter the Blue Jackets stumbled to a 33-42-7 record, good for 11th in the 15-team Western Conference.

Columbus finished a whopping 23 points behind Calgary for the final playoff spot. In the expansion franchise's six-year history, ithas always been at least 19 points out of qualifying for the post-season.

The Blue Jackets were172-258-62 all-time under MacLean, and are the only franchise to have never reached the post-season.

MacLean departs with two years remaining on a contract that paid him around $1 million per season, plus incentives.

"I'm unbelievably disappointed about where we are but I think we've got an unbelievable foundation in place," MacLean said after the season. "I'm telling you, I look around the league and how many teams would I trade ours for? Not many."

The Blue Jackets appeared ready to post their first winning season after setting franchise records for wins (35) and points (74) in a season in 2005-06. Columbus posted a 23-16-2 record over the second half of that season, but the momentum failed to carry over into 2006-07.

MacLean, a native of Summerside, P.E.I., joined the Blue Jackets on Feb. 11, 1998, as GM and a month later was named team president.

Heenjoyed instant success as the club earned 71 points (28-39-9-6) in its inaugural season in 2000-01, the second highest total ever by an NHL expansion team.

Also coached

MacLean also served as the Blue Jackets' coach from Jan. 7, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2004, taking over from Dave King, the team's first coach.

But the Blue Jackets did not respond under MacLean, going just 9-21-4-3 at the start of the 2003-2004 season before he stepped aside and elevated assistant coach Gerard Gallant.

Gallant was fired and replaced by Ken Hitchcock early this past season after Columbus won just six of its first 24 games.

MacLean has had success in the past, coaching the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in 1996.

After a 41-31-10 record during the regular season, the Panthers were a fourth seed in the playoffs but pulled off a succession of upsets to advance to play the Colorado Avalanche in the final, where they were swept in four games.

Perhaps the biggest move of MacLean's tenure was the Nov. 15, 2005, trade with Anaheim that brought Sergei Fedorov and a draft pick from Anaheim for defenceman Francois Beauchemin and Tyler Wright.

Fedorov, 35 at the time, was supposed to help Nikolai Zherdev develop while lending a steadying hand to the offence.

Instead, he fought nagging injuries and his production waned while taking up a large chunk of the team's salary cap space with a salary of more than $6 million per year. At the same time, Beauchemin has developed into a budding star on the blue-line for the Ducks.

With files from the Associated Press

now