John Tortorella Hints At ‘A Change of Style of Play’ with Sergei Bobrovsky’s Likely Departure from Columbus

By Ben Jandrain on June 4, 2019 at 1:20 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo reacts to a puck headed in his direction against the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster- USA TODAY Sports

John Tortorella joined Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter for a bonus edition of his now-famous "Hockey And Hounds" segment Monday afternoon on 97.1. Topic No. 1 was the looming offseason and potential for change, and Tortorella was candid in talking about life without Sergei Bobrovsky.

"I don't think Bob's gonna be here," Tortorella said. "You're losing a very, very good goaltender. We may have young goaltenders that are gonna be taking over that position. I have to start thinking about just a little bit of a change of style of play in order to protect them a little bit to get their feet wet."

Given his comments, it sounds like "safe is death" might be on hold to begin the 2019-20 season. The rationale is simple: when offensively gifted defensemen like Seth Jones or Zach Werenski are eager and hyper-aggressive joining the play, the team is susceptible to high-danger chances against. In the past, they've had a safety valve named Bobrovsky there to bail them out. 

The last thing a less-experienced goalie needs are frequent breakaways or odd-man rushes against. If Columbus is overly aggressive in transition – sending four skaters on the rush instead of three – a turnover could be deadly, with only one player left in the defensive zone. This isn't to say that Jones, Werenski, and other defensemen won't be able to pick their spots. But it does mean that the coaching staff will place a greater emphasis on managing the puck effectively, especially at both blue lines, where turnovers will haunt.

Another change that could be forthcoming is a more conservative style of play from the club's centers. While Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg, Riley Nash, and Brandon Dubinsky are regarded for their two-way play, the coaching staff may deploy their centers in a less-aggressive manner, staying higher in the offensive zone and being more careful on how fast they choose to exit the defensive zone. Pierre-Luc Dubois, particularly, comes to mind, as he's been in an offensive role for much of his two seasons in the NHL. 

Lastly, the team will look to keep the puck as far away from their net as they can. An old hockey adage is 'the other team can't score from its own end'. It's possible the club will employ more of a dump-and-chase mentality – partly due to necessity with Artemi Panarin's likely impending departure – keeping the puck 200 feet from their net. 

Of course, Tortorella also chatted about the two players who are most likely to fill in for Bobrovsky's starting role: Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo.

Tortorella is a fan of Merzlikins, the impressive Latvian prospect (and Columbus draft pick) who signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets this spring and will battle for the starting spot in net.

"He comes in as advertised," Tortorella said. "I think he's got a great personality. He's a bit of a renegade personality which I love. I'm anxious to see how he handles himself."

The head coach was also asked if he saw Joonas Korpisalo as a No. 1 goaltender.

"We saw – once he was playing a lot of games – we saw his game grow.  I have not given him many opportunities to run with it," Tortorella said. "He hasn't really had the opportunity to go a couple of months being the No. 1 guy. He's had a few weeks at certain times. He's gonna get an opportunity." 

Joonas Korpisalo Stats
Season Age GP GS W L SV% GAA
2015-16 21 31 30 16 11 .920 2.60
2016-17 22 14 13 7 5 .905 2.88
2017-18 23 18 17 8 8 .897 3.32
2018-19 24 27 21 10 7 .897 2.95

If you'd like to listen to the entirety of the most recent edition of "Hockey And Hounds," you can check it out below.


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