The Blue Jackets put Pascal Vincent in a bad spot during his lone season in Columbus

Columbus parted ways with Vincent on Monday after the Blue Jackets finished last in the Metropolitan Division, ending his tenure after just 82 games.
Los Angeles Kings v Columbus Blue Jackets
Los Angeles Kings v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

History has shown that the only thing harder than becoming a coach in the NHL is staying a coach in the NHL. Since 2000, many coaches haven't lasted more than three seasons. It's even harder when the team you're coaching is already one of the worst in the league, a lesson now-former Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent learned on Monday.

Exactly nine months after being named to the position in Mike Babcock's place, new general manager Don Waddell decided to move in a new direction behind the bench. Columbus managed just 66 points last season, finishing last in the division and with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets were also near the bottom of the league in just about every major statistical category.

Vincent should not be the scapegoat for Columbus' struggles

For the second straight season, Columbus finished last in the division, albeit a very tough one. Vincent's predecessor, Brad Larson, faced many of the same issues during his short tenure with the club that Vincent faced last season. While the coach is in charge of putting the right guys on the ice, there are things out of his control that hurt his chances.

First and foremost was the terrible health of the team. Much like the 2022-23 season, Columbus failed to get full seasons from some of their most important players. First-round pick Adam Fantilli was having a fantastic rookie season before suffering a calf laceration in late January. Yegor Chinakhov was in and out of the lineup late in the year after a strong start. All-Star defenseman Zach Werenski missed a few weeks during the season.

Captain Boone Jenner missed over a month with a broken jaw midway through the season before missing the final month following a family emergency. Sniper Patrik Laine struggled to produce throughout the year, but had to contend with an early season concussion and a broken clavicle in December that he eventually suffered a setback with in January. Laine entered the Player Assistance Program shortly after his setback was announced, keeping him out for the rest of the season.

Second, they continued to struggle between the pipes. The Blue Jackets deployed five goalies throughout the season, with Elvis Merzlikins starting 40 of the 82 games. When Elvis was in the building, offenses tended to get the better of him. Merzlikins finished with the fourth-worst GAA (3.45) in the league among qualified goalies. The numbers for the backups are a little better, but it didn't prevent Columbus from allowing the second-most goals this season.

Lastly, the team wasn't built for Vincent to succeed now. It's no secret that Columbus is in the middle of a rebuild. To think that they'd be able to do anything this season was absurd, even if they signed the biggest free agent in Johnny Gaudreau two offseasons ago. Though Gaudreau scored 60 points to lead the team, he only netted 12 goals. Many of the team's top scorers are still in their early 20s. This is a team built to get better in the coming seasons. I'm not saying this absolves Vincent from all of the blame, but it provides a little perspective.

Clearly, Waddell is wiping the slate clean

Don Waddell has only been on the job in Columbus for a few weeks, so he is having to shake things up on the fly as we prepare to enter the early stages of the offseason. While Vincent isn't completely to blame for Columbus' struggles, he's a symptom of what hasn't been working recently for the team. That's likely why the change was made.

A replacement for Vincent hasn't been made yet, but Waddell has made it clear that he values experience when finding a new coach to lead the team. There are plenty of candidates to guide the Blue Jackets into the future. It's only a matter of who Waddell and company feel has the highest likelihood of finally turning things around in Columbus.