Photo by Dave Reginek via Getty Images
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced on Sunday afternoon that the organization and head coach John Tortorella have mutually agreed to part ways. The 62-year-old’s contract expires on July 28.
After the team’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, the Blue Jackets finished the season with 48 points, tied with the Red Wings for last in the Central Division. The Red Wings own the tiebreaker with more regulation wins (16) than the Blue Jackets (12) this season.
At the trade deadline, the team dealt captain Nick Foligno (Toronto Maple Leafs), defenseman David Savard (Tampa Bay Lightning), forward Stephen Noesen (Maple Leafs), and center Riley Nash (Maple Leafs).
After sitting just two points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot on March 19, the Blue Jackets finished the season with a league-worst 6-14-5 record to miss the tournament for the first time since 2016. The Blue Jackets have only won one Stanley Cup Playoff series in franchise history.
On January 21, Tortorella benched Pierre-Luc Dubois, 22, for the final 46:32 of the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Lightning on Thursday, and Tortorella did not necessarily explain why. Two days later, the Blue Jackets traded Dubois, who requested to be moved ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season, to the Winnipeg Jets in a deal that sent forward Patrik Laine to Columbus. On February 10, Tortorella benched Laine for the final 26:19 of a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes after he “mouthed off” on an assistant coach.
In 447 regular-season games behind the Blue Jackets’ bench, Tortorella went 227-166-54 (.568 points percentage). He went 13-18 (.417 win percentage) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In 1383 career regular-season games with the Blue Jackets, Lightning, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks, Tortorella has gone 673-541-37 (ties)-132 (.548 save percentage). His teams are 56-64 (.467) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tortorella led the Lightning to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2004. He won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s coach of the year after that season and 2016-17 with the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets finished the season with an average of 2.39 goals-per-game (29th in the NHL), 3.29 goals-against per game (25th), a 15.4% power-play efficiency (27th), a 79% penalty-killing rate (20th), an average of 29 shots-per-game (23rd), an average of 32.4 shots-against per game (28th), and a 45.3% faceoff-winning percentage (30th).
The Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens are the only other teams without a head coach for next season. Gerard Gallant, Mike Babcock, and Claude Julien highlight some of the best coaches available. Gallant spent six seasons on the Blue Jackets’ coaching staff from 2001-07, including the last three as the head coach.
The Blue Jackets are expected to return to the Metropolitan Division next season.
By Harrison Brown