COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—The Columbus Blue Jackets fired defensive-minded coach Ken Hitchcock on Wednesday, less than a year after the club made the postseason for the first time.

Assistant coach Claude Noel was chosen to lead the team on an interim basis.

General manager Scott Howson announced the firing a day after the struggling Blue Jackets blew a 1-0 lead in a listless 5-1 loss at Colorado. Columbus stands 14th of the 15 teams in the Western Conference with a 22-27-9 record and 53 points.

“This season has been very disappointing for the Blue Jackets organization and our fans,” Howson said. “Hitch worked tirelessly to build an identity for this team that was missing before he arrived and deserves a great deal of credit for those efforts. He earned and received the opportunity to turn things around this season, but unfortunately that has not happened.”

The Blue Jackets play their next game at home against Dallas on Thursday night.

The 54-year-old Noel joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant coach in June 2007, after spending four seasons as the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals. During that time, he led the club to a 183-94-12-31 regular-season record, three 100-point seasons and two West Division titles.

Built around star forward Rick Nash(notes), the Blue Jackets made it to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs a year ago before being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

Hitchcock picked up his 500th career victory behind the Columbus bench, but the team appeared stagnant after a fast start this season.

“Ken Hitchcock joined the Blue Jackets at a time when our team needed credibility, stability and structure, which is exactly what he provided and for that we are extremely grateful,” Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said.
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