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?
“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.