Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Richards out, Torts in as Columbus Looks to Save Season

Columbus Blue Jackets' brass acted swiftly after the team dropped its first seven games of the 2015-2016 NHL season. Todd Richards was fired today and will be replaced by John Tortorella.

If Tortorella succeeds, it won't be the first time he's taken a team from the bottom of the league to elite. He took over for a beleagured and hapless Tampa Bay Lightning squad in 2000-2001 and in his third full season guided that team to its first and only Stanley Cup. With 446 wins, Tortorella has the most among American-born NHL coaches. He has also done stints with the Rangers and the Canucks.

Tortorella signed a three-year contract to take him through the 2017-18 season with the 'Jackets.

"We want to pursue," Tortorella said, of his new squad, which has allowed a league-high 34 goals in its first seven games. "We want to be aggressive. We want to go north-south and play very quickly."

While Todd Richards is taking the fall, many believe that goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is the biggest problem in Columbus. The once stellar netminder has been off his game and has made no secret of his current lack of confidence.

Tortorella knows that whatever the big issues, he doesn't need to completely rewrite the script for this talented team. "It's not reinventing the wheel," Tortorella said. "I'm not trying to do that. We just want to get back to who we are."

Tortorella already appears eager to reconnect and try to repair some player-coach relationships that were strained in the past. Most notably with center Brandon Dubinsky. The 29-year-old Alaska native was a key player unter Tortorella in New York, and the coach hopes to lean on Dubinsky despite the fact that there relationship was often hit-and-miss in New York.

"In New York we spent a lot of time together," said Tortorella of his former player. "We went through the process together, him and I. Some good things some bad things."

He added: "I need to lean on [Dubinsky]. He's part of that heartbeat of the club and he needs to be a conduit for the coaching staff and the players until I get to know the other guys also. He's an important man, as far as I'm concerned... I think he can explain some of how we go about it, how I've gone about this as a coach."

As far as confidence goes, Tortorella knows there's a challenge that lies ahead. "It's hard to reach in your pocket and say here's some comfidence," he said. "It has to come through some good things happening."

Columbus will begin the Tortorella era with a trip to Minnesota on Thursday night.