MacLean will remain GM and president

Updated: January 1, 2004, 5:04 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Doug MacLean stepped down as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday after failing to duplicate the success he had in Florida.

MacLean remains president and general manager of the Blue Jackets, who have the worst record in the NHL. Assistant Gerard Gallant was elevated to the head coaching spot.

"We have a lot of guys who haven't played to their potential. I hope I was the reason for that," said MacLean, whose team has the worst record in the NHL. "Now, they won't have that for an excuse."

MacLean coached the Florida Panthers to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals in the franchise's third season.

Gallant, an assistant with the Blue Jackets since their inception 3 years ago and a veteran of over 600 career NHL games, takes over immediately and will lead Columbus on a seven-game road trip that opens Friday in Tampa Bay.

"It takes 20 guys that compete every night," Gallant said. "It can't be 15 or 14 guys. It can't be Rick Nash scoring every goal for us. It's got to be different guys. I'm going to demand that they all compete and play hard."

Nash, the top pick in the draft two years ago, has developed into one of the league's top goal-scorer with 23. In the last few games, he provided almost all the Jackets' offense.

The 49-year-old MacLean had a record of 24-43-8-4 as the Blue Jackets' head coach. He fired Dave King, the franchise's first coach, last January and took over on an interim basis. He took the job full time in June.

The Blue Jackets have struggled from the outset this season. They were the last team to win a road game, beating Chicago on Dec. 26, and have lost six straight at home.

Columbus' 1-0 loss to San Jose on Wednesday night matched the franchise's worst home stretch ever (0-6-1-1). The team is in last place in the Western Conference's Central Division with a record of 9-21-4-3 and has a league-low 25 points.

"We've played very close. We've been beaten by one goal in 10 of the last 13 losses. We've got to just work a little bit harder and maybe those will be wins," Gallant said.

Gallant broke into the NHL with the Red Wings in 1984 and averaged 72 games and 56 points over the next eight seasons. He had four consecutive 70-plus point seasons from 1986-90.

Injuries, scoring slumps and poor goaltending have all contributed to the Blue Jackets' lackluster performance, MacLean said. The team exceeded expectations with 71 points in its inaugural season, but has been mediocre since.

MacLean has brought in plenty of young talent as GM. Nash, 19, has been joined by 19-year-old Russian star Nikolai Zherdev, who is still learning the North American game.

Team captain Luke Richardson credited MacLean with trying to shake the team from its slump.

"It's a fresh start and that's what we have to look at it as," Richardson said. "Doug's tried everything possible this year. He's brought in motivational speakers, he's given us days off and he's skated us into the ice at times. Sometimes you just need a jolt in a different way."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press