John Tortorella

Jackets confirm hiring of Tortorella, a ‘coach with a proven track record of success’


The Columbus Blue Jackets have confirmed today’s big news that Todd Richards has been fired as head coach and replaced by John Tortorella.

“After much deliberation and discussion, we have made the very difficult decision late last night to remove Todd Richards as our head coach and we’ve reached an agreement with John Tortorella to join the Columbus Blue Jackets in that capacity,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen in a release.

“None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility. There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we’ve set for this season.”

On his new coach, Kekalainen said: “John Tortorella is an experienced National Hockey League coach with a proven track record of success. He is a Stanley Cup winner and we believe the right person to lead our team at this time.”

The Jackets will hold a press conference shortly.

Torts time: Jackets fire Richards and turn to Tortorella

John Tortorella
AP Photo

After a season-long absence from the NHL, John Tortorella is back.

This time, it’s with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have fired coach Todd Richards after an 0-7-0 start to what was supposed to be a breakout season. The news was first reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Richards was in his fifth season in Columbus, but had only led the team to the playoffs once and never won a postseason series.

By contrast, Tortorella brings a lengthy track record of success. He has won the Stanley Cup and is the winningest American-born coach in history with a 446-375-37-78 career regular-season record. At the same time, Tortorella was fired in both 2013 and 2014 by the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.

Tortorella’s season with Vancouver went about as poorly as possible, as the Canucks failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The team scored just 196 goals, its lowest full-season total since 1998-99.

Tortorella is known for his clashes with the media, although he did feel that he made strides to improve that while in Vancouver. He was also suspended for 15 days during the 2013-14 campaign for attempting to confront Calgary coach Bob Hartley between periods after a line brawl at the start of a game.

Ultimately, Tortorella didn’t blame the Canucks for firing him. That being said, don’t expect him to be a totally changed man when he takes over the Jackets.

“Don’t blow your philosophy up because it was a tough year,” he said last month. “You still need to have confidence in yourself, and stay with your convictions and philosophy.”

Vancouver will receive a second-round pick from Columbus as compensation for the hiring, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The Blue Jackets start a four-game road trip Thursday in Minnesota.

Related: USA Hockey confirms John Tortorella will coach World Cup squad

‘I deserved to be fired’ in Vancouver, says Tortorella


Largely out of the spotlight since being turfed by the Canucks last May, John Tortorella appeared on radio Friday morning and took full responsibility for his dismissal.

“I don’t think I did the job for our team in the second half [of the season] with our consistency, and I think that’s what cost me my job,” Tortorella explained on Tampa radio station 620 WDAE. “We couldn’t stop the losing streaks. We needed to win a couple games within those areas.

“Quite honestly, I deserved to be fired after that second half of the year.”

Tortorella — canned after the first of a lucrative five-year, $10 million deal — finished 36-35-11 last season in what was regarded as a disastrous campaign for both himself and the organization; the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in five years and their anemic offense finished 28th in the NHL.

That said, Torts did have some positive things to say about his time in Vancouver. He praised the group of players he coached and said he made strides to develop a better relationship with the media than he had in past stops, like New York.

But he also acknowledged the incident that left an indelible black mark on his time with the Canucks.

On Jan. 18 of last year, Tortorella lost the plot and went after Flames head coach Bob Hartley following a massive line brawl to start the game:

Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his antics — one of the longest coaching suspensions in NHL history — and admitted it marred his entire campaign.

“You’re talking to a guy that went down a hallway after another coach last year, which was so across the line, so embarrassing to my organization and my team,” Tortorella said. “You live and die by the sword a little bit there.

“That was really one of the bad spots of my season.”

Feaster: Just a matter of time until Tortorella returns

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

John Tortorella has been a head coach in part or all of the last 14 NHL campaigns. Could 2014-15 be the season that ends that streak?

Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, has a 446-375-37-78 coaching record, and his teams have advanced to the playoffs in eight of the last 11 seasons. He was also fired by the New York Rangers and Vancouver within the span of a year and his tenure with the Canucks couldn’t have gone much worse.

Was that the final nail in the coffin though or will the controversial 56-year-old coach get another shot? Jay Feaster, who served as the Lightning’s general manager during most of Tortorella’s run as the team’s bench boss, is betting on the latter.

“I think time heals all wounds,” Feaster said in an interview with the Fischler Report. “I don’t think for a minute that Torts was anything other than what people knew he was. I think Mike Gillis knew the issues, the positives and the negatives. In my mind the issue really came down to that infamous day when he decided to try to get in the locker room when [Calgary head coach] Bob Hartley was antagonizing.”

Feaster is referring to an incident that happened on Jan. 18 that involved Tortorella trying to get into the Calgary Flames locker room during the first intermission. Tortorella was riled up after the game started with a line brawl. He was suspended for 15 days for his actions.

It’s worth noting though that the Canucks’ decline predated that event. They got off to a 23-11-6 start, but were on a 2-5-3 stretch going into the game against Calgary. Vancouver finished the season 36-35-11 and ranked 28th in goals scored.

“I believe that John will get back,” Feaster added. “General managers in the league know he’s a good coach, and you take the good with the bad. Part of what makes him a good coach is that he does not have the political correctness gene. He is not worried about what you or me or what anybody else thinks about him – he’s going to do what he thinks is right. I think some time away, so time to decompress, I think that’ll be good for him.”

There are always teams that under perform during the regular season and some of them will attempt to shake things up by firing their head coach. As Feaster sees it, eventually one of them is going to bet on the idea that Tortorella can turn the season around.


Some thoughts on Torts, who was never a good idea for Vancouver

Pens’ coaching search goes on — Mike Johnston a candidate?

Jim Rutherford

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has “reached out to a couple of guys” that were not on his original list of candidates to become Pittsburgh’s new head coach.

Calling them “very good candidates” in an interview with the Post-Gazette, Rutherford understands that fans have become impatient with a process they were led to believe last week was close to ending.

“I guess people get anxious,” said Rutherford. “They want news sooner.”

It’s believed the Penguins wanted to hire Willie Desjardins to replace Dan Bylsma; however, Desjardins chose Vancouver instead.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers have also hired new coaches recently, with Bill Peters going to the former and Gerard Gallant the latter.

One possible candidate for Rutherford is Mike Johnston. The Portland Winterhawks (WHL) coach interviewed for the Canucks’ job, and might have been John Tortorella’s replacement in Vancouver if not for the availability of Desjardins.

“He has done an excellent job the last five years with Portland,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said a short time ago. “They play an up-tempo, skilled game…. He coaches the style we want our team to play.”