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MacLean out as Blue Jackets' general manager @NHL

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -The Columbus Blue Jackets fired president and general manager Doug MacLean, whose teams didn't come close to making the playoffs in the franchise's six seasons.

Team spokesman Todd Sharrock confirmed the firing Thursday morning after several media reports said MacLean had been let go Wednesday night.

Principal owner John H. McConnell, minority owners and team officials met Wednesday and agreed to dismiss MacLean, the architect of a team that had gone 172-258-62 since joining the league in 2000 and 33-42-7 this past season.

Led by coach Ken Hitchcock, and with players such as Rick Nash and Sergei Fedorov, the Blue Jackets finished 23 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Sharrock said team officials would hold a news conference later Thursday.

Jody Shelley, with the team from its first year, said he was stunned by the dismissal despite the lack of success by the team.

"As a player, I'm really surprised," he said. "You hear the rumors but you just figure it comes with not meeting expectations. Then when the other shoe drops, you're still shocked."

MacLean did not return messages seeking comment left on his cell phone.

He had two years remaining on a contract that paid him around $1 million per season with incentives.

"I'm unbelievably disappointed about where we are but I think we've got an unbelievable foundation in place," MacLean said after the season. "I'm telling you, I look around the league and how many teams would I trade ours for? Not many."

MacLean was McConnell's first hire when Columbus secured the franchise. He supervised all the drafts and trades, some that were overwhelming successes and others that were failures.

MacLean even dumped the team's first coach, Dave King, and took over behind the bench. But the Blue Jackets did not respond under MacLean, going just 9-21-4-3 at the start of the 2003-2004 season before he stepped aside and elevated assistant coach Gerard Gallant.

Gallant was fired and replaced by Hitchcock early this past season after Columbus won just six of its first 24 games.

MacLean coached the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996.

Through trades and the expansion draft before Columbus' first NHL season in 2000-2001, MacLean acquired goaltender Ron Tugnutt and forwards Geoff Sanderson, Espen Knutsen, Tyler Wright and David Vyborny. They led the club to a 28-39-9-6 record became only the third expansion team to exceed 71 points.

MacLean traded up with to get Nash with the overall No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft. Nash scored 17 goals and had 22 assists as a rookie, then tied for the league lead in goals with 41 in 2003-04. In the two years since the lockout, however, he has scored just 31 goals and 27 goals.

Nikolai Zherdev, a first-round pick in 2003, has been inconsistent.

Perhaps the biggest move of MacLean's tenure was the Nov. 15, 2005, trade with Anaheim that brought Fedorov to Columbus. He was supposed to help Zherdev on offense, but fought nagging injuries and his production waned.

"It's a business, but at the same time there's a human side," Shelley said. "A guy lost his job today, a guy who was passionate and did some great things for this organization."

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