Tortorella expects quick decision on future as coach of Blue Jackets


John Tortorella said Saturday he expected a quick resolution regarding his future as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets ended the regular season with a 5-4 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings. Columbus (18-26-12) and Detroit tied for last place in the eight-team Discover Central Division.

“I’ll put it to you this way. People talk about a shelf life, I don’t think there’s a shelf life for a coach,” Tortorella said after the game. “But what I believe in is it the right fit. I think the fit of the players and personnel, I think that’s the most important thing. That’s something [general manager Jarmo Kekalainen] and I have discussed very honestly quite often. 

“I get it. Am I the right fit? These are the things Jarmo and I have talked about. I think this will come to a solution very quickly here.”

Columbus failed to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“It was miserable. It [stunk],” Tortorella said. “But I think you’ve got to turn it around and learn from it, and I hope we’re never involved in that situation again.”

Tortorella was 227-166-54 in the regular season and 13-18 in the playoffs in six seasons coaching the Blue Jackets.

The 62-year-old was given a public vote of confidence by Kekalainen on March 2.

“I think he has a great feel for even his own coaching style, when he needs to loosen up and when he needs to tighten the rope,” Kekalainen said. “I work with him every day and we talk about those things every day, so he knows that sometimes he has to back off a bit and sometimes he needs to get a little closer. I do think that always has to start with the players in between [the ears].”

The Blue Jackets acquired forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 23 for forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and were 14-23-9 after Laine made his Columbus debut Feb. 2.

“This is a year I think of learning and trying to make yourself better,” Tortorella said. “Certainly in my position, where I just don’t think I did a good enough job, with the change of personnel, [Dubois] going. 

“We’ve gone through this a lot in the past few years and we were able to get the room straightened out. I did not do a good enough job in getting that to happen with the new personnel coming in, some distractions early on. We just never felt comfortable with the room as far as being cohesive. That’s my responsibility. Great learning experience.”

Tortorella is 673-541-132 with 37 ties in 20 seasons coaching the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks and Blue Jackets. He has the most wins by a United States-born coach in NHL history.

A two-time Jack Adams Award winner (2004, 2017), voted as NHL coach of the year, Tortorella coached the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup and the Blue Jackets to their first postseason series victory, against the 62-win Lightning in 2019, when they became the first team to sweep the Presidents’ Trophy winners in a best-of-7 series.

“We fell off the mountain this year,” Tortorella said. “We’ve got to start over. No matter what happened my relationship with those guys, it’s never going to change because that’s what happens in that type of situation. …

“There is a lot more work to be done, but we’re trying to get it on the right path and create the right culture. For these guys here, being with them was an honor.” independent correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report

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