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Blue Jackets fire Vincent after one season

Pascal Vincent Columbus Blue Jackets Pascal Vincent - The Canadian Press

COLUMBUS (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday fired coach Pascal Vincent after one season in which they were one of the NHL's worst teams.

New general manager Don Waddell announced the firing and said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.

The Blue Jackets finished last in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 27-43-12 and 66 points in 2023-24 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

“As I spent time with Pascal over the past few weeks, I found him to be an outstanding person and smart hockey coach who worked very hard last year under trying circumstances, but I believe a change behind the bench is in our team’s best interest,” Waddell said in a statement released by the team.

Vincent joined the team before last season as an associate head coach but was elevated after new coach Mike Babcock resigned on the eve of training camp after an investigation into the Stanley Cup-winning coach’s bizarre conduct of asking to see photos on players’ phones. Babcock had been hired to replace Brad Larsen, who was fired after two losing seasons.

So Vincent's first season as an NHL head coach began just before training camp opened in September.

The Blue Jackets then struggled with injuries that led Vincent to use 47 different players during the season. They finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Among key players lost were forward Patrik Laine, who entered NHL/NHLPA player assistance program after 18 games, and Adam Fantilli, one of the NHL's top rookies who was badly cut on his calf by a skate in January.

Both top goaltenders, Elvis Merzlikins and Daniil Tarasov, also struggled with injuries.

The Blue Jackets amassed 98 points and won a playoff series — a sweep of Tampa Bay — in the 2018-19 season under John Tortorella. They lost in the first round of the playoffs the next season, and it's been downhill from there.

Tortorella was fired after the 2020-21 season and Larsen, one of his assistants, then went 62-86-16 in two seasons.