Jackets eye Moose coach

Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel has sparked the interest of at least one NHL team. (MARCEL...

Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel has sparked the interest of at least one NHL team. (MARCEL CRETAIN/Winnipeg Sun)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are interested in talking to Scott Arniel about their head coaching vacancy and it appears they'll get an opportunity to do so.

Blog reports in the Columbus Dispatch and The Province (of Vancouver) say the Blue Jackets asked for and received permission to speak with the head coach of the Manitoba Moose.

The only thing left up in the air at this point is when Arniel will be interviewed for the first time, since he's wrapping up exit meetings with the Moose on Wednesday and then joining the Vancouver Canucks as an extra set of eyes for the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Arniel finished his fourth season at the helm of the Moose on Sunday, when his team was eliminated four games to two by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

The Moose have averaged 45 wins under Arniel's watch (45, 46, 50 and 40) and reached the Calder Cup final in the spring of 2009.

Although the Moose went through a tumultuous season that saw them use 54 different players, goalie Cory Schneider believes Arniel did a solid job under the circumstances.

“He’s been great. One of the best jobs he did was this year and in this playoff series,” Moose goalie Cory Schneider said on Tuesday. “Hamilton is a very good, well-structured team and he gave us a lot to adjust and work with. We used it well and almost stole the series.”

Arniel was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning, but told reporters during his year-end media session on Tuesday that he’d be keeping his eyes and ears open if NHL teams came calling and the situation was a good fit for him and his family.

Arniel, who was the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2008-09, also said he believed he was ready for his first crack as a head coach in the NHL and that he became a better coach this past season.

“There were certainly lots of trials along the way, but it wasn’t a down year. It was challenging but it was fun,” Arniel said Tuesday. “I had to go back to a lot more of the teaching. The year before, that team had a lot of veterans who knew how to play the game and it was more about just trying to keep them playing at a very high level.

“This group was about teaching guys how to play the game, how to do the little things within the game and mentally, how to approach things. I learned a lot.”

The Blue Jackets are one of four NHL looking for a head coach, though interim head coach Claude Noel (who took over for Ken Hitchcock) is under consideration as well.

Portland Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen is considered the front-runner for the Blue Jackets job right now.

Arniel is believed to be a candidate for the Atlanta Thrashers opening and could be in the mix for the Tampa Bay Lightning job, depending on who takes over as general manager.

The New Jersey Devils are also looking for a new head coach after Jacques Lemaire retired on Monday, but they’re expected to hand over the team to John MacLean, who is currently the head coach of the Lowell Devils of the AHL.


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