Report: Columbus GM, coach could be fired by Monday

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch is reporting the beleaguered Columbus Blue Jackets are close to making sweeping changes behind the bench and in the front office.

Sources have told Portzline that head coach Scott Arniel and GM Scott Howson “could be replaced by Monday.” According to the report, former Calgary GM Craig Button has already been contacted about taking over for Howson.

And guess who CBJ is looking at for the head coaching gig?

Ken Hitchcock.

“Hitchcock is still under contract with the Blue Jackets, due to make $1.33 million this season in the final year of his deal. He has watched several Blue Jackets games and practices with [Columbus team president Mike] Priest and Howson already this season, and has maintained a residence near Nationwide,” Portzline writes. “This would appear an act of desperation, but Priest has always held Hitchcock in high regard, once saying that ‘Hitch hockey is Blue Jackets’ hockey.'”

So in their time of need, the Jackets are turning to the best coach they’ve ever had — a guy they also happen to still be paying. Can’t argue with that.

Hitch coached Columbus from 2006 to 2010 and is best known for leading the Jackets to their first and only playoff appearance in 2008-09. (That year was also by far the finest of captain Rick Nash’s career, scoring 40 goals and registering a career-high 39 assists. He also finished plus-11, no small feat considering he’s minus-55 for his career.) Hitch holds all the notable franchise coaching records and is one of only two CBJ bench bosses with a winning record — the other being Claude Noel, who replaced Hitchcock on an interim basis in 2010.

As for Button, he and Hitch have history from their time together in Dallas (Hitch the coach, Button the director of player personnel.) Button was also shortlisted for the Jackets GM job back in 2007, which eventually went to Howson.

UPDATE: Button has addressed the speculation via Twitter.

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Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.