John Tortorella will not be returning as the Columbus Blue Jackets coach, the team announced on Sunday.
There has been fierce speculation in recent weeks that Tortorella’s six-year tenure with the Blue Jackets would come to an end. He had no contract for the next season and Columbus finished last in the Central Division with a record of 18-26-12 (0.429 point percent).
“Torts and I have had numerous conversations throughout the season and we have agreed that both he and the club have the right time to go their separate ways,” said Jarmo Kekalainen, general manager of Blue Jackets, in one Statement announcing the news. “He’s a great coach and his performance at our club over the past six seasons speaks for itself. He has played an important role in our success since his arrival and we are extremely grateful for his passion and commitment to the Blue Jackets and our city. He was the right coach at the right time and helped us establish a standard that we will push forward. “
Tortorella, whose Blue Jackets overtook the Red Wings 5-4 in overtime on Saturday night, finished with a record of 227-166-54 with the Blue Jackets, his fourth NHL team. They qualified for the playoffs in four of their six seasons, failing to get past the first round every time, except in 2019 when Columbus beat Tampa Bay in a shocker in the opening round.
“After discussing and examining the team’s future direction, Jarmo and I have reached an agreement to part ways,” Tortorella said in the statement. “I would like to thank the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for the opportunity to coach this team and live in the great Columbus area. It has been a privilege to work with the players, coaches and hockey operations staff who are part of the staff Best in the league. I’d also like to thank the CBJ fans and the community for the support they have given the team and for the work the CBJ family has done to support the community. “
The regular season finale in Columbus, Ohio felt like saying goodbye to Tortorella. The fans sang his name during the game. And the coach took the unusual step of letting all Blue Jackets coaches – including video coach Dan Singleton – play the game behind the bench.
Veteran winger Cam Atkinson, who played for Tortorella throughout the coach’s tenure in Columbus, spoke on Saturday about how much he valued his time with him. “It’s been together for six years. I’ve learned a lot from him. Definitely grown, not just as a hockey player, but also as a person,” he said. “That’s all you want as a player. A coach who trusts you.”
As usual, Tortorella’s season in Columbus had controversy with the players. His top-class bench in the center of Pierre-Luc Dubois preceded the trade in jackets to Winnipeg for star winger Patrik Laine, whom Tortorella later also put on the bench. But Tortorella said he continues to be linked to many players on the roster.
“The players there, I grew up with them,” he said on Saturday. “I started this team at a very old age, but I’ve still grown with these guys. It’s been an honor to coach them.”
Tortorella also trained the Lightning, Rangers and Canucks.