Columbus Blue Jackets President and General Manager Doug MacLean announced Friday that Gary Agnew
has joined the club's coaching staff as an assistant coach and that Associate Coach Dean Blais is moving into a player development role within the organization. It was also announced that Goaltending Coach Rick Wamsley has left the club to join the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach. Agnew joins Head Coach Gerard Gallant and Assistant Coach Gord Murphy on the staff with a new goaltending coach expected to be named in the coming weeks.
Agnew, 45, has spent the past six seasons as the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate. He guided the Crunch to their first-ever division and regular season conference championships in 2001-02 and set numerous franchise marks with a 47-25-5-3 record in 2005-06, including wins (47) and points (102) in a season. In 480 career games with the Crunch, he has 220 wins, 177 losses, 43 ties, 33 overtime losses and seven shootout losses. His .545 career winning percentage is tops in club history.
"Gary Agnew has done a terrific job with the Syracuse Crunch over the past six years, both from a wins and losses standpoint and in working with the young players in our organization," said MacLean. "He is a very bright coach who will be a great addition to our coaching staff."
Prior to his arrival in Syracuse, Agnew spent 10 seasons as a head coach in the Ontario Hockey League, the last three with the London Knights. Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario and raised in Montreal, Quebec, he began his coaching career with the London Knights in 1990-91 before moving to the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) in 1994-95. He returned to the Knights for the 1997-98 season and coached them to a Western Division Title. In 664 OHL games, he posted a 329-282-53 record and was named OHL Coach of the Year and First Team All-Star Coach in 1992-93 and 1997-98. Before embarking on his coaching career, Agnew played for the University of New Brunswick (CIAU), Fredericton Express (AHL) and Milwaukee Admirals (IHL). He has a master's degree in coaching from the University of Western Ontario.
Blais, 55, was named associate coach of the Blue Jackets on June 25, 2004. Prior to joining the club he spent the previous 10 years as the head coach at the University of North Dakota. He guided the Fighting Sioux to a 262-115-33 record, two national championships and five Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles during his stint at UND.
"Dean and his family have been through a great deal of adversity the past several years and he feels that it is in his family's best interest that he step back from coaching and devote more time to his family," said MacLean. "He is a tremendous hockey person and will be a great asset to our player development efforts."
"The past few years have been very difficult for my family and I and I think it is the right time to step back from the daily demands of coaching," said Blais. "I enjoy being a part of the Blue Jackets organization and look forward to working with the young players in our system. This opportunity will also allow me to spend more time with my family."