There had been strong speculation in recent weeks about the end of Tortorella’s six-season tenure with the Blue Jackets. He doesn’t have a contract for next season and Columbus finished last in the Central Division with a record 18-26-12 (.429 percentage points).
” It was horrible. I’m not even sure we’ve won two games in a row. I know we haven’t won three in a row, ”said Tortorella. “This one was a kick to the teeth for me. I struggle with it. “
Tortorella, whose Blue Jackets outlasted the Red Wings 5-4 in overtime on Saturday night, finished 227-166-54 with the Blue Jackets, his fourth NHL team. They’ve made the playoffs in four of their six seasons, failing to get past the first round every time except in 2019, when Columbus swept away seeded Tampa Bay in an opening shock.
When asked by ESPN on Saturday if he wanted to return as coach of the Blue Jackets next season, Tortorella was not hired.
“I’ll tell you this way: I think the discussion that [Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen] and I have… people talk about a shelf life. I don’t think there is a lifespan for a coach. But what I believe in is if it’s the right match between the coach and the players. I think that’s the most important thing, “Tortorella said.” And it’s something that Jarmo and I discussed very honestly. I understand. Am I the right person? These are the things we talked about. “
The regular season finale in Columbus, Ohio felt like a farewell to Tortorella. Fans chanted his name during the match. And the coach made the unusual decision to put all of the Blue Jackets’ coaches – including video coach Dan Singleton – to work on the game behind the bench.
Veteran winger Cam Atkinson, who played for Tortorella throughout the coach’s tenure at Columbus, spoke about how much he enjoyed his time with him. “It’s been six years together. I learned a lot from him. Definitely grew up, not just as a hockey player, but as a person, ”he said. “That’s all you want as a player. A trainer who trusts you. “
As usual, Tortorella’s season at Columbus has had its controversies with the players. His prominent bench from center Pierre-Luc Dubois preceded the Jackets trading him in Winnipeg for star winger Patrik Laine, who Tortorella also benched afterwards. But Tortorella said he remains linked with many of the roster players.
“The players there, I grew up with them,” he said. “I started at a very old age with this team, but I still grew up with these guys. It was an honor to train them. “
Tortorella has also coached the Lightning, Rangers and Canucks.
The Athletic was the first to signal the end of his tenure in Columbus.