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
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.”
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.”