Torts returns to Vancouver, where he can reach milestone win No. 500

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Three years ago, the Vancouver Canucks were in the midst of an impressive run, with wins in eight of 10 games. John Tortorella was the coach.

And then, it quickly turned into a nightmare season for the Canucks.

Injuries piled up. Tortorella stormed the Calgary Flames dressing room and was subsequently suspended. Vancouver fell out of a playoff spot. Mike Gillis lost his job as GM. Tortorella was eventually fired after Trevor Linden took over as president, but not before the fiery bench boss referred to the Canucks core as “stale.”

It was a disaster.

On Sunday, Tortorella returns to Vancouver coaching the Columbus Blue Jackets. The same Blue Jackets that have won eight in a row and are challenging the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Torts, who coached the U.S. World Cup team, which also met with an embarrassing result, is on the verge of career win No. 500.

His controversial (and brief) tenure in Vancouver is still talked about. It only adds to the plot that Torts can, against the Canucks, reach this career milestone when many have, for some time, speculated about his place in the game.

“But what you remember most is how he gets engaged. He’s definitely someone who cares about winning. He wants to win at all costs,” Canucks forward Jannik Hansen told The Province ahead of Sunday’s meeting against the Blue Jackets.

“You win, it’s the greatest thing ever. You lose? It’s the … well … something is going to blow up.”

In a twist from the past, the Blue Jackets haven’t been doing much losing this season. They have a 19-5-4 record. They are among the best in the league when it comes to goals for (3rd in the NHL, 3.32 GF/GP) and goals against (2nd in the NHL, 2.04 GA/GP).

Sergei Bobrovsky has been stellar in net. The Blue Jackets are getting contributions from young players like Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski, and veterans on good deals like Sam Gagner.

Three years later, and Torts is coaching another team on a roll. At the start of this season, the odds said he’d be the first coach fired. How quickly things can change.