John Tortorella will not be returning to coach the Columbus Blue Jackets next season. Sources confirmed to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic that last night was indeed his final game as the bench boss. Torts knew it too and so did the fans.
As the clock was winding down in the third period, fans at Nationwide Arena rained down chants of “Tor-Tor-Ella”. The 62 year-old head coach reportedly already started saying his goodbyes to some players and members in the organization before the game.
“We fell off the mountain this year,” Tortorella said afterwards. “We’ve got to start over. No matter what happened my relationship with those guys, it’s never going to change because that’s what happens in that type of situation.” The winningest coach in Blue Jackets history discussed shelf life for a coach as well. “I don’t think there’s a shelf life for a coach,” he explained. “Am I the right fit? These are the things we’ve (Jarmo Kekalainen) talked about.”
Torts will leave the organization on high note. When Max Domi won it in OT it moved him to 12th on the All-Time NHL win list for head coaches passing Mike Keenan. “There is a lot more work to be done, but we’re trying to get it on the right path and create the right culture,” he started to wrap up after his 673rd career win. “For these guys here, being with them was an honor.”
As news hit the wire that Torts was unlikely to return, other rumblings started to surface he was not retiring. The next logical question is this, where will he land?
Word on Tortorella, who will be 63 in June, is that he's not retiring and still wants to coach.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 9, 2021
There’s three legitimate options and quite possibly more if the Flyers decide to let go of Alain Vigneault. At the moment, here are the top three destinations in order:
Seattle is certainly interesting and Torts would be a great coach to set the foundation for a new franchise. His in your face style can wear on players after awhile, but there is no one better in establishing a winning culture. That’s why the Buffalo Sabres, who desperately need to change theirs would be another top landing spot.
The question to Torts is this, do you want to coach a brand new franchise or another that has been in disarray as your next stop. At his age, I am going to assume he’s looking for a situation to win a Stanley Cup and that’s why I believe his preference would be a return to New York.
For the record, I am hearing the feeling is mutual.
Let’s first note that David Quinn has not been relieved of his duties yet, but almost unanimously around the rumor mill he’s expected to go. On a recent episode of Real Kyper at Noon, Nick Kypreos said he heard whispers that Mike Babcock may be a name considered for the next Rangers head coach. It sounds like Babcock really wants to get back in the NHL and could be lobbying hard to get his name under consideration.
Also during the show, Kypreos’ cohost Doug Maclean heard a name I did as well. John Tortorella’s contract will expire after the Blue Jackets next game and James Dolan absolutely loves him. Matter of fact, Dolan responded to a question about Torts just months after his firing in NY that almost sounded like a love letter.
I miss John Tortorella. I’d visit Torts before a game and we would trade barbs for 10 minutes, he’d tell me about his [lousy] cable TV service and I’d be sitting there saying, “You can’t clear the puck out of your zone, what the hell’s wrong with you?” and he’d strike back and then play the game and I miss that. I’m developing a relationship with Alain [Vigneault] and he’s also a good guy, but Torts and I had a special relationship. It was fun for me. He banned me from the locker room for a while, all in fun. I miss that. NY Post
There’s likely to be a myriad of coaches interviewed if indeed they part ways with David Quinn, which could happen as early as today I’m told. Both Tortorella and Babcock would be candidates, as could Gerard Gallant and Claude Julien. Another name that may get an interview is Patrick Roy, an old teammate of Drury’s in Colorado.
However, all that’s happened has been set into motion thanks to James Dolan’s desire to change the culture. A culture he claims was missing that winning attitude. While the decisions are said to be completely in Drury’s hands there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be Tortorella’s job again.
Drury also has good history with Torts and a mutual respect. During Torts’ first few years at the helm in NY it was Drury that was his captain before injury forced him to retire. They both have a desire to win it all on Broadway, and the reunion that dates back almost 20 years is in the making.