Last-place Blue Jackets fire coach Scott Arniel

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Martinek also has sustained a concussion which has kept him out most of the season. To add to the Blue Jackets’ woes, Carter suffered a separated shoulder in Sunday night’s loss at Honda Center and will likely be out for an extended period.

“I really divided our season into three parts and the first part, we had a tough start,” said Howson, who decided over the weekend that it was time to make a change. “I didn’t think it was a fair basis for evaluation because of the Wisniewski suspension and all the injuries. Really, if you look at our record from the middle of November to the middle of December, it was pretty good. We were playing good hockey. We were playing better defensively. I think we were 7-5-3 in a 15-game period. The 11 games since then we’ve only had two wins and our play seems to be regressing.”

Richards, a loyal assistant who was saddened by Arniel’s firing, said it was a situation where everything seemed to go wrong.

“I don’t think you could have thought about or created a scenario that actually got to this point,” he said. “I don’t think you could sit and dream it up. Just the things that went on, how we lost games and how it snowballed and manifested into bigger things.”

Arniel was not Howson’s first choice as head coach when he was hired. The job had been offered to Guy Boucher, who turned it down and then later took the top job with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Arniel, the seventh NHL head coach to lose his job this season, joined the Blue Jackets after serving as head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose from 2006-10. He led the Moose to a 181-106-33 record and four Calder Cup Playoffs appearances.

But his message didn’t resonate with players and the team never showed any consistency under him. The club started his first season with a 14-6-0 record, but since then it is 31-54-18 with only eight regulation wins in the last 63 games.

Richards, in his first year with Columbus, was named Minnesota’s second head coach and led the club to a 38-36-8 record in 2009-10 and a 39-35-8 mark in 2010-11.

He was an assistant with San Jose in 2008-09 before being hired by the Wild.

Now he faces half a season with no incentive to make the playoffs and a world of questions about the future.

“It’ll be different,” said Richards. “It’ll be a challenge.”

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap.

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