John Tortorella Was Robbed (Not That He Cares)

By Ed Francis on September 10, 2020 at 1:20 pm
John Tortorella
Adam Cairns/Dispatch via Imagn Content Services

Let's just get this out of the way: John Tortorella doesn't coach the Columbus Blue Jackets so that he can win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year.

But that doesn't mean he wasn't absolutely robbed, and it doesn't make it any less disrespectful to the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. 

And it doesn't mean I can't be fired up about it.

Let me make the case for Torts before I make the case against the winner of the award, Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins. 

First of all, the NHL Broadcasters Associations gives the award based on who was "adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success." So we're talking about a coach who had success during the season, but who maybe didn't have all the bits and pieces to make it. Maybe a coach that overachieved. Maybe a coach that did more with less. These are all ways of saying that it is not just an award for the coach of the team with the best record. 

At the beginning of the season, it was hard work to find an "expert" that was willing to give Columbus a sniff at the postseason. Rightfully so, perhaps. The team had just lost two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, had lost the most dynamic offensive player in franchise history in Artemi Panarin, lost an important top line center in Matt Duchene, and were one of the youngest teams in the league. 

They gained Gustav Nyquist in free agency, but were otherwise quiet and did not have the benefit of drafting an NHL-ready player. They were young, and while many thought the future looked promising, a young team without an elite player and with no proven goalie between the pipes was not supposed to a team that played beyond the regular season. 

After a slow start - they were 11-14-4 on December 7th - things were looking even more bleak. The injuries were starting to mount, goaltending was inconsistent, and Columbus was having trouble scoring goals. 

Valuable players were getting hurt, too. Here's Josh Anderson ending his season with a shoulder injury in a fight:

Seth Jones? Hurt. Zach Werenski? Hurt. Oliver Bjorkstrand? Hurt. 

Joonas Korpisalo? Hurt, and in the most frustrating way possible:

As the injures continued to mount (a league leading 419 games when all was said and done), the Blue Jackets were calling up players like Nathan Gerbe, Kevin Stenlund, Ryan MacInnis, Stefan Matteau, Kole Sherwood, and Calvin Thurkauf. Players that have their strengths, but were in the minor leagues for a reason. 

By this point, most were reserved to the fact that this would be a season to develop some of the young players and work towards the 2020-21 campaign. But no sooner than the hope was gone, it came surging back. 

That 11-14-1 record on December 7th became 30-16-9 by February 7th. Columbus had gone 19-2-7 during a the middle third of the season, moving from the bottom third of the league in the standings to the top third. When all was said and done, Columbus would qualify for the postseason for a fourth consecutive season with a series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that started the season (and the restart) with Stanley Cup aspirations. 

I would submit to you that it's the hockey definition of doing more with less, and follow that up with this question: Would the Columbus Blue Jackets have been able to do this without John Tortorella?

The answer is easy: absolutely not. 

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins lost no one from last season, in which they were a game away from winning the Stanley Cup. They didn't lose future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara, or future Hall of Famer David Pastrnak, or future Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron, or potential future Hall of Famers Brad Marchand or Tuuka Rask. Nope, they didn't lose any of them in free agency.

They didn't lose any of them due to injuries, either. The four skaters there missed a combined nine games (out of a possible 280). 

Bruce Cassidy was not the reason for the success of the Boston Bruins. He was just the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. 

Torts was robbed. Why? You know it, I know it, Cassidy knows it, and Torts himself knows it. 

He just didn't care to win a popularity contest, and he never has. 


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