The departure of Nick Foligno has been bittersweet.
On one hand, you've got to be happy for the 33-year-old as he gets the chance to chase a Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs, one of the best teams in the NHL this season.
On the other, it hurts to no longer have him in the locker room after nine years, 599 regular-season games, 34 playoff games, 149 goals, 201 assists, and his invaluable leadership.
"I remember the first thing I said to him that summer after my first season, because Nick was the captain when I came here, I said, 'I just don't think you can do it,'" said John Tortorella on Rothman and Ice's Hockey n' Hounds segment earlier today. "I just don't see you as a captain. Nick and I talked about it the other day when all this was going down. He said, 'I remember you saying this to me, and I just wanted to smoke you right there.'"
It's a funny anecdote, for sure, but it speaks to just how much the relationship and respect between the two prospered over the last five seasons. Now, as Foligno's gone, and Tortorella will likely be gone after the season, an era is coming to an end. While this season was incredibly disappointing for everyone involved, you have to remember the good times over the bad.
"I think he's got one of the greatest hearts as a person, not as a hockey player, but just as a person. (He's got) a wonderful family. I'm really happy I was able to go through the process with him."– John Tortorella on Nick Foligno
Foligno alluded to the possibility of a return to Columbus in the summer, after his playoff run with the Maple Leafs concludes, and it seems quite likely that the Blue Jackets will bring him back on a cheap deal, so he can continue to mentor the young crop of players. Tortorella confirmed that they would not be naming another captain this season, so that leaves the door open wide for Foligno to return and re-take the captaincy.
"I've been very fortunate and honored to watch (Foligno) grow," said Tortorella. "We've had so many different discussions that a captain and a head coach would have through the past four or five years and some crazy stuff going on with the club...I think he has skin on him. I think he's got one of the greatest hearts as a person, not as a hockey player, but just as a person. (He's got) a wonderful family. I'm really happy I was able to go through the process with him."
From questioning whether Foligno had it in him to maintain the captaincy, to words of praise like these? That's not easy to get from Tortorella. As their paths take them in different directions, the five years that they shared together, and that we shared with them, will be remembered forever as a defining era in Blue Jackets history.
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