John Tortorella is changing his ways as he looks to right the ship in Columbus
John Tortorella, known for his angry antics at his press conferences, was calm, cool and collected at his first public appearance with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tortorella, who was named as Columbus’ head coach earlier today, is excited to take on his newest challenge.
"I watched Columbus play last year, and I’ve always been impressed with how they’ve played," Tortorella said. "They’ve got some pieces that (makes it) really exciting to be a part of. Because you’re going to be teaching, you’re going to be developing kids, teaching them how to be pros. And along with doing that, you’re looking to win. It’s a team that’s there. I’m just honored to be part of it and get involved with them and see what they’re about."
Columbus fired Todd Richards a few hours after their 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night. The latest loss dropped the Blue Jackets’ record to 0-7-0. Only two NHL teams since 1948 have started off a season with seven straight losses: The 1983-84 Washington Capitals and the 1997-98 Chicago Blackhawks.
The team is in complete disarray. While the some of the forwards are stepping up offensively, the team has allowed a league-high 34 goals in seven games. Sergei Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, is sporting a dreadful .835 save percentage and a 5.07 goals against average in five games.
Tortorella is expected to step in and introduce a new system to the Blue Jackets. He needs to introduce a new way of thinking, a new mindset. He and the rest of the league recognize the Blue Jackets have potential, they just need to snap out of it.
"It’s hard to reach into your pocket and say ‘here’s some confidence.’ It has to come through, just some good things happening," Tortorella said. "And as quickly as it went this way, it can come back the other way. It was one of the initial things when I addressed the team today….embrace it. Some good things are going to happen. When one thing happens in a really good situation, (we need to) get another one on top of it. (Then) get another one on top of it. And then you start relaxing."
Tortorella has technically been relaxing (and that term is being used very, very loosely) himself. He was fired by the Vancouver Canucks after the 2013-14 season, his first in Vancouver.
Tortorella was essentially phased out of the game. Earlier this season, he worked as an analyst with the NHL Network. And he says that time away from the game allowed himself to take a step back and reflect on his way of coaching.
"You look at yourself," he said. "You get to look at other coaches, you get to look at other teams. The game is ever-changing. There’s so many changes as you go through a season, and you’re able to watch it with a different perspective. Not on the bench, not making split-second decisions, you’re able to encompass everything and watch the trends. I listened to other coaches, I listened to general managers, I listened to the interviews, and you reassess."
Tortorella said that he used to put up "blinders" on to focus on what he wanted, and it put people off in the past. In order to succeed in Columbus, he knows he can’t do that anymore.
"I need to listen," Tortorella said. "I want the players to speak to the staff, just to find out where they’re at. And we need to do this collectively, the coaching staff and the players (need to be) involved."
This will be Tortorella’s fourth team in the last 15 years. He first came into the NHL as a head coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2001-02 season. He would lead them to the franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup championship in the 2003-04 season. Tortorella would join the New York Rangers in the middle of their 2008-09 season, consistently leading them to contention, but never made it beyond the Eastern Conference Final.
One player that was on Tortorella’s Rangers roster was Brandon Dubinsky, the 29-year-old forward that has played a huge role on the Blue Jackets for the last four seasons. Tortorella was excited to be reunited with his former player.
“Duby and I in New York, we spent a lot of time together. I had him at a different stage in his career when he was a young kid. We went through the process, him and I. Some good things, some bad things. But that was my first meeting today, sitting down with Duby when I got into the building here. It was so good to see him. He’s a family man now."
But since Dubinsky has that familiarity with both the Blue Jackets and Tortorella, his role becomes crucial in Tortorella’s success.
“I need to lean on him. He’s part of that heartbeat of that club there. He needs to be a conduit for the coaching staff and the players until I get to know the other guys. He’s an important man, as far as I’m concerned, because we spent a number of years together. I think he can explain how we go about it, how I’ve gone about it as a coach, and kind of make a smooth transition for the team.”
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen stated that, while Tortorella should have a say in his coaching staff, Columbus’ assistant coaches, Craig Hartsburg, Brad Larsen, Kenny McCudden and Ian Clark, remain with the team. Kekalainen also said that Richards will have a role with the team, but that role hasn’t been determined yet, according to The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.
Because of the Tortorella signing, the Blue Jackets must surrender a second-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks, per League rules. The year of the pick, which can be in the 2016, 2017 or 2018 draft, must be decided by June 1 of 2016.
Reports also indicate that Columbus’ hiring of Tortorella will not have any effect on his status for the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. Tortorella was hired in September to coach Team USA in the tournament.
Tortorella heads into a group that is battered and broken by their nightmare early start. But the roster is littered with players that have won at every level, and some have even won the Stanley Cup. But they are going to have a new sense of direction, with a new coach that seems to have changed his outlook on the game. His main concern is turning this club around, and he wants to get this program back to it’s known form.
"It’s not re-inventing the wheel," Tortorella said. "I’m not going to do that. We just want to try to get back to who we are, and go about our business that way."