It seems that the worst start in NHL history was too much for the Columbus Blue Jackets to take, as the team cut ties with head coach Todd Richards early this morning and hired veteran coach John Tortorella as his replacement. Tortorella will make his Columbus debut Thursday night on the road against the Minnesota Wild.
As of publication time, the Blue Jackets are hosting a press conference to introduce Tortorella:
Richards’ dismissal comes on the heels of Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders, which shackled the team with their seventh loss in seven games on the season. During that time, Columbus has averaged less than two goals a game while giving up an average of nearly five.
John Tortorella was quickly announced as the Jackets’ new coach, and will resume his career for the first time since being fired by the Vancouver Canucks after the 2013-14 season, his only season with the club.
In a statement released by the Blue Jackets, team General Manager Jarmo 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 Stanley Cup win which Kekalainen mentions came during Tortorella’s fourth season with the Tampa Bay Lighting. The Bolts won the 2004 title, only two seasons removed from missing the playoffs. Tortorella would stay with the team until 2008, when a last-place finish in the then-Southeast Division ended his stay.
The next season, Tortorella took over as the coach for the New York Rangers, qualifying for the playoffs in four of his six seasons there. During the 2013 offseason, he was fired and quickly hired by the Vancouver Canucks, effectively swapping jobs with Alain Vigneault.
The 2013-14 season with Vancouver was, by most metrics, a disaster. The team missed the playoffs after spending several seasons as Stanley Cup contenders, and Tortorella himself served a 15-game suspension after an altercation with Calgary coach Bob Hartley. After the season, Tortorella admitted, “Quite honestly, I deserved to be fired after that second half of the year.
Richards was in his fifth season as the Blue Jackets’ coach, qualifying for the playoffs only once in 2014.