John Tortorella replaces Todd Richards as Blue Jackets coach
Columbus turns to fiery bench boss after disastrous start
John Tortorella is back behind an NHL bench.
The combustible head coach has been hired to replace Todd Richards, who was fired Wednesday by the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets.
A trendy pre-season pick to improve after missing the playoffs last season, Columbus has started 0-7-0. The Blue Jackets have scored only 13 goals while allowing a whopping 34 following Tuesday night's 4-0 home loss to the Islanders.
"One of the problems right now is expectations," Tortorella said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce his hiring. "Expectations that weren't there last year with this club."
"None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement released earlier by the team. "There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we've set for this season."
The addition of Tortorella, 57, promises to at least make things more interesting. He's famous for sparring with the media, fellow coaches, opposing players and sometimes his own team.
He lasted only one season at his last NHL stop, in Vancouver, with the Canucks missing the playoffs in 2013-14. That season included a confrontation between Tortorella and members of the Calgary Flames in a hallway between periods.
Vancouver, which gave Tortorella a five-year contract when it hired him, receives a second-round draft pick as compensation from Columbus, which signed the coach to a three-year deal Wednesday.
The new coach said he wanted to hear from players about what's wrong with the team.
"I need to listen," he said. "I want the players to speak to the staff just to find out where they're at."
Despite his foibles, Tortorella has enjoyed success behind the bench. He guided Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, and his 446 wins are the most ever by a U.S.-born coach.
Last month, he was named the head coach for the U.S. team at next year's World Cup of Hockey.
In addition to his time with Tampa Bay and Vancouver, Tortorella coached the New York Rangers from late in the 2008-09 season through the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. His teams made the playoffs in three of his four full seasons in New York. His first NHL head coaching chance also came with the Rangers, who he guided for four games on an interim basis in the 1999-2000 season.
Richards has spent six seasons as an NHL head coach (two with Minnesota, the last four with Columbus) and has reached the playoffs only once — a first-round exit with Columbus in 2014. Still, he is the winningest head coach in the modest history of the Blue Jackets franchise, which entered the league in 2000.