Dropping the ax in Ohio

Less than a day after watching his team fall into the basement of the Central Division, the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday fired head coach Gerard Gallant.

In his final game behind the Blue Jackets' bench, Columbus lost to Chicago 1-0 on Sunday.

A replacment is not expected to be named until Tuesday. Columbus doesn't play again until Wednesday against Nashville -- the first of three meetings with the Predators in five-day stretch.

Gallant's firing should come as no surprise. Some touted the Blue Jackets as a possible playoff contender this season, but they've failed so far to live up to those lofty expectations. Columbus has scored a league-low 32 goals in 15 games, and only the Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers have fewer wins than Columbus' five.

To boost an offense that scored the fourth-fewest goals in the league last season, the Blue Jackets acquired Fredrik Modin from the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed Anson Carter as a free-agent. Neither has lived up to their billing.

Modin, a two-time 30-goal scorer, has just three this season. Carter, a 33-goal scorer with the Vancouver Canucks a year ago, has only two so far and has averaged less than one shot per game.

And the development of former top overall pick Rick Nash has to be questioned. Three seasons ago, he had 41 goals as a rookie, but had only 31 in an injury-shortened 2005-06 campaign, and just four so far this season.

Gallant becomes the second NHL coach this season to be fired. Philadelphia dismissed one-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock last month.

So who's next on the block? Tough to say. The only team out there now that's really painful to watch is Phoenix, led by managing partner Wayne Gretzky. Much like Ted Williams' inability to manage a baseball team, Gretzky's credibility as a bench boss needs to be looked at.

It's one thing to be the most talented player ever to lace up a pair of skates. It's another to try and impart that wisdom your team. And, I don't see No. 99 firing himself.

Here's a possibility: Glen Hanlon in Washington. The Capitals are 7-5-4 so far this season, and one point behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- and no, it's not too early to start looking at those seedings.

Call it a hunch, but unless Alexander Ovechkin is going to start playing in goal, the Caps are one bad stretch from falling well back in the pack in the East.

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