If you follow junior hockey, then you probably already know the latest must-know news in CHL circles – former head coach of the Windsor Spitfires, Bob Boughner, has signed on as the newest assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets (and if you love junior hockey, but don’t know what I’m talking about, then get familiar with Neate Sager’s Buzzing the Net blog at Yahoo! Sports Canada).


Boughner, who guided the Spitfires to back-to-back Memorial Cup victories, is only the latest addition to a Blue Jackets coaching staff that began its latest evolutional stage when former head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired in early February of last season.


Let’s take a look at the new personalities in Ohio who are going to affect Rick Nash and the rest of your favourite Jackets.


Head Coach Scott Arniel


Columbus made headlines recently as they courted last year’s AHL coach-of-the-year, Guy Boucher, before the former head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs accepted the head coach position in Tampa Bay.


Shortly after Boucher opted for Yzerman and company, Scott Arniel was offered the job and his appointment was officially announced on June 8th.  During the announcement, Blue Jackets’ GM, Scott Howson, had this to say, ''Scott Arniel possesses all the qualities we were looking for in a head coach …He played in the NHL for many years, was an assistant coach in the league, and has been successful in developing young players. Scott has been one of the top coaches in the American Hockey League the past four years, averaging 45 wins and 99 points a season playing an attacking, up-tempo game."


Playing an attacking, up-tempo game?  Well, well…that would be a welcome change from Hitchcock’s straight-jacket style of play for those of us who own (or are interested in owning) Blue Jackets in the coming season.


Some might suspect Howson of simply trying to differentiate Ariel from the notoriously defensive Hitchcock, who oversaw the Blue Jackets’ colossal step backward last season.  But Arniel is no unknown.  While it was Boucher who took home last year’s AHL top coach honours, it was none other than Arniel who received the award the year before as the head coach of the Manitoba Moose.


Impressive to be sure, but as is the case for players, just because you’re money in the real world, doesn’t necessarily make you a desirable fantasy commodity.  Here are some scoring numbers for the Moose during Arniel’s four-year coaching reign in Winnipeg.


Manitoba Moose

GF (AHL ranking)

GA (AHL ranking)


204 (25th)

232 (16th)


239 (21st)

188 (1st)


236 (9th)

197 (2nd)


232 (18th)

201 (3rd tied with Hartford)


At first look, these numbers don’t seem scream “attacking, up-tempo”.  In fact, they look to me like Ariel’s teams won by keeping the scoring low.  Not exactly firewagon hockey.


Certainly these numbers don’t tell the whole tale, and it’s a fact that savvy coaches know that they must work with what they are given.  It’s possible that Arniel simply inherited a team that was better at preventing goals than scoring them.  However, it is also a fact that the Moose scored 243 goals the year before Arniel arrived, more than they scored at any time during the four seasons of his tenure.


The Assistant Coaches: Brad Berry, Dan Hinote, and Bob Boughner


Since being given the reins, Arniel has hired three assistant coaches to help him guide the Jackets back to the playoffs.


Brad Berry was Arniel’s assistant coach in Winnipeg, and before that spent time in various supporting coaching roles in US college system, most notably with the University of North Dakota.  Howson explained that “his experience in working with defensemen will add significant value to our organization.”  Excellent…more defence.  Anyone else getting concerned?


Dan Hinote made history as the first NHL player to be drafted out of the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1996; however, he has no coaching experience, and might be loathe to rock any boats.


Which brings us back to Boughner.


This past season, I asked Windsor GM Warren Rychel to describe the Spitfires in one word.  While other OHL personalities chose words like ‘committed’ to describe their teams when questioned, Rychel barely hesitated before shooting back with the word ‘exciting’.  Granted, that was Rychel choice, not Boughner’s, but the two men, one the President and head coach, the other Vice President and GM, seemed so in synch during their time together in Windsor and I would be surprised if Boughner hadn’t chosen a similar word.


Certainly Boughner’s results during his three (plus a bit) years as head coach of the Spitfires were exciting.  Back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010, back-to-back OHL and CHL coach-of-the year honours in 2007 and 2008, plus he coached Team Canada’s Under 18 squad to a perfect record and gold medal at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in 2009.  Not bad, Bob.


Here are some scoring numbers for the Spitfires during Boughner’s time in Windsor.



Windsor Spitfires

GF (OHL ranking)

GA (OHL ranking)


331 (1st )

203 (5th)


311 (1st)

171 (1st)


279 (4th)

205 (6th)


209 (18th tied with Erie)

311 (17th)

*Bougher, Rychel, and the new ownership didn’t take over the Spitfires until February of 2007.


These numbers certainly show that the Boughner-era Spitfires were talented, but they also consistently lead the league in goal-scoring, unlike Arniel’s Moose.


Howson has made noise about more offense for the Blue Jackets in 2010/11, and Ariel certainly knows it.  But in my opinion, it is unclear whether the former Moose head coach is inclined towards “playing attacking, up-tempo” hockey.  That said, Arniel’s newest assistant coach has clearly demonstrated his taste for a high-scoring style of play, and while new to the NHL as a coach, Boughner’s coaching accomplishments may give him the confidence and credibility to influence Arniel.


Windsor’s loss will certainly be Columbus’ gain.  But it remains to be seen if the 2010/11 edition of the Columbus Blue Jacket coaching staff will be a win for us poolies.



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