Blue Jackets Fire Coach Gerard Gallant

The Associated Press
Monday, November 13, 2006; 8:25 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gerard Gallant was fired as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, less than 24 hours after the team dropped into last place in its division.

No replacement for Gallant was named. Columbus next plays at home Wednesday night against Nashville.

The 43-year-old Gallant had a record of 56-76-10 in one full season and parts of two others as the head coach of the Blue Jackets. The team fell to 5-9-1-0 this season and to last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference after Sunday night's 1-0 loss at Chicago.

Gallant's firing was announced by general manager Doug MacLean, who also has come under fire because the franchise has yet to make it to the playoffs in its first five seasons.

MacLean called a news conference for Tuesday morning to discuss the job. The team's top two assistants are Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy, should MacLean seek a short-term solution.

MacLean said he was disappointed to have to fire Gallant.

"He has shown tremendous dedication to our organization over the past six-plus years and worked as hard as he could to help our team be successful," MacLean said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we have not gotten off to the start we expected this season and while there are always a multitude of factors involved, we felt a change was needed."

With the signing of free agent Anson Carter and the addition of Fredrik Modin in a trade, the Blue Jackets were expected to be a possible playoff contender. The team also has rising young stars such as Rick Nash, who shared the NHL lead in goals in 2003-2004, Nikolai Zherdev and Pascal Leclaire, along with veterans Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote.

Gallant took over for MacLean midway through the 2003-2004 season and finished with a 16-24-5 record. After the lockout season, the Blue Jackets went 35-43-4 a year ago and set club records for wins and points while finishing with a rush. They went 23-16-2 in the second half of the season after Nash returned from an injury.

A former star player in the NHL, principally with the Detroit Red Wings, Gallant had been with the club since its inaugural season in 2000-2001. He spent more than three seasons as an assistant before he was elevated to replace MacLean as coach.

Gallant was a fixture at left wing for the Red Wings for nearly a decade. After a rookie season in 1984 in which he scored six goals and had 12 assists in 32 games, he averaged 72 games and 56 points for the next eight years, including four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points from 1986-1990.

The Blue Jackets have mustered just one goal in their last two games. They scored points in the season's first three games, winning twice and fueling the excitement of fans. But since then, they have lost nine of their last 12 starts.

Offense _ expected to be a strength _ has been a problem this season. They have scored just 33 goals, the fewest in the league.

Their 11 points is the third-worst in the NHL, behind Philadelphia and Phoenix, who had eight apiece heading into Monday night's action.

© 2006 The Associated Press