John Tortorella has a roller coaster history in the NHL, which most recently ended in Vancouver at a really low point. Though he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to their only Stanley Cup in 2004, he most recently led the Canucks to their worst season since 1999 in 2013-14, but has since bounced back. After he was named the Head Coach of Team USA for next summer’s World Cup of Hockey last month the feisty in-your-face coach received more good news as he was hired by Columbus on Wednesday to try and right their ship.
Dec 19, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella checks out the scoreboard during the third period against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Dallas Stars defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Why Tortorella was Brought in
It’s no secret that the Blue Jackets are unhappy with their current situation. After the 2013-14 season saw them squeak into the playoffs and almost edge out the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins, and despite having many more injuries than any other NHL team last season (which caused them to miss the playoffs), the Jackets were hoping this year would be much brighter. However, they currently sit in in last place in not only the Metropolitan Division, but the entire Eastern Conference. At 0-7-0 they have yet to gain any points in this early season, and something needed to change.
Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson has had some success bringing in a new head coach early in the season, most notably with his last move that brought Ken Hitchcock to St. Louis in early November 2011 while he was the President of the Blues. Hitchcock was able to right the Blues ship with a more disciplined style of play, and a more structured offense that saw the team win the Jennings Trophy for least goals allowed in the league. It was also enough to secure the Jack Adams award (coach of the year) for Hitchcock who’s still the bench boss in St. Louis today.
FILE – In this May 22, 2012, file photo, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella yells during NHL hockey practice at Madison Square Garden in New York. Tortorella, the NHL’s winningest U.S.-born coach, will be behind the bench again he leads the Americans at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Following that trend Davidson brought in a similar coach to Columbus when he hired Tortorella to replace Richards on Wednesday. Tortorella is known as a fire-starter and a sh**-disturber, who either gains his players respect as they buy in to his ‘loud’ tactics, or loses them quickly if they don’t see the benefit to his style of coaching. But which way will it go in Columbus?
Columbus is a Good Fit for Tortorella
It’s no secret that eventually, and often times sooner rather than later, Tortorella wears out his welcome with his players and the organization because of his electric personality. However, his direct style of coaching is exactly what the Blue Jackets need right now to get back on track, or at least back in the same zip code of the track. With a median age of 26.7 years-old the Blue Jackets are still on the young side of things, and have a plethora of players who are entering their prime. Add in Tort’s ‘reflection period’ over the last year that has seen him mellow out a little and you can see the potential for greatness in Columbus.
John Tortorella has always been known to have interesting chats with the media (photo courtesy of NY Daily news).
At this point those players, which include newcomers Brandon Saad and William Karlsson, and defensive standout Jack Johnson, could go one of two ways with the rest of their careers. They could end up like fellow Jacket David Clarkson who people look at as overrated and under-skilled for his payroll (though he is currently slightly better off than former Jacket Nathan Horton), or they could turn into a Tyler Seguin type of difference maker as well. It all depends on if John Tortorella can corral them, keep them engaged, and guide them to the promised land.
Given his track history with teams who play a grinding out style first, and a finesse game second, Tortorella should be able to have a positive effect in Columbus. His style of coaching led the 2011-12 New York Rangers to a Division and Conference title, a 2nd place overall finish in the regular season, and a Conference Finals appearance (they lost in 6 games to the New Jersey Devils). This Columbus team has a similar feel to that Rangers squad as they employ a great goaltender, and some balanced team players who will grind out wins with some finesse play along the way. If Torts can keep them focused, and not crack the whip too hard, he should be a breath of fresh air for a CBJ squad searching for their identity.
John Davidson made a similar move in 2011 when he brought in Ken Hitchcock to St. Louis (photo courtesy of NHL.com).
The future of Columbus is now in John Tortorella’s hands, and he has the support staff in place to run with it. Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson will support him with necessary moves to keep the team competitive, and it’s up to Torts to rally his troops and get them to buy-in. With the younger core this should be a slightly easier task for the coach, but if the Blue Jackets players don’t begin to wake up soon and take their part in the early season pitfalls, Tortorella’s efforts won’t get very far.
We at Loose Chicklets are pulling for the CBJ squad, as they got a raw deal with injuries last year and still almost pulled out a first-round win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, so we hope Johnny can right the ship. Though only time will tell what happens in Columbus, we wish the best to the club, and think they’ll still be dangerous by season’s end, especially with John Tortorella behind the bench.
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