The Fuse: Torts Tells His Players "You Belong Here," Fiala's Terrifying Injury, and ESPN Essentially Punts on Hockey

By Rob Mixer on April 28, 2017 at 5:30 am
John Tortorella

Around these parts, we’ll do our best to give you everything you need to know about the Columbus Blue Jackets. We’ll also fill you in on the stories you may not have heard about (or those you didn’t think you need to know about), the social media buzz around the league, along with a few random nuggets for good measure.

Think of it as your morning coffee with a shot of Blue Jackets talk.

 QUITE THE PEP TALK: John Tortorella is widely known as a master motivator, a guy who brings teams together and manages to get the most out of them. The Blue Jackets were one of his better coaching jobs, and as a result, he was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for the fourth time in his career. He instilled an "us against the world" mentality in the Blue Jackets early on this season, and they opened the campaign to the tune of 27-5-4 with the goal of earning respect from other teams in the NHL.

Before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Pittsburgh, Tortorella reminded his players what got them here, and why they should feel confident in their ability to not just be there but to stay there. This is really good stuff starting around the 30-second mark:

"You belong here. And we take off from there."

 SIMPLY HORRIFYING: The risk of serious injury is unavoidable in hockey. The players are built like trucks, skating at top speed on razor-sharp steak knives and looking to beat the hell out of each other in the process. What you hate to see, though, is an injury born from an accident that can severely impact a player's well-being. That happened to Nashville Predators forward Kevin Fiala on Wednesday night in Game 1 of their second-round series against the St. Louis Blues.

Fiala got tangled up with Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and his leg buckled before slamming into the end boards. Fiala was down on the ice in agonizing pain and a stretcher was required to transport him off the ice and to a local hospital.

The game was delayed for nearly 20 minutes before resuming. Nashville won the game, 4-3, and improved to 5-0 in the playoffs. After the game, coach Peter Laviolette said his players were committed to winning the game for Fiala, a bright young rookie who scored a game-winner for the Predators in their first-round sweep of Chicago.

Fiala underwent surgery in St. Louis on Wednesday night to repair a broken femur. His postseason is over.

 WORLD WIDE LEADER? The bloodletting at ESPN was known to be coming for some time, but that doesn't make it any easier to see hundreds of tenured and talented people lose their jobs. As part of the network's massive layoffs announced this week, a trio of established, credible, and genuinely good people lost their jobs in a move that signals a drastic shift in how ESPN covers hockey.

Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside and Joe McDonald were let go by ESPN effective immediately, leaving Craig Custance to head up the hockey coverage. Custance is top-notch and one of the best in the business, but losing those three is a significant blow. LeBrun has another gig with TSN in Canada and will continue his work there, while Burnside and McDonald are now free agents.

All the best to those three guys, who did fantastic work to elevate ESPN's hockey coverage and make it a destination for quality original reporting. They'll land on their feet and hopefully very soon.

 ICYMI: The Blue Jackets have several prospects who appear ready to make the jump to the NHL, which could impact their decision on a player like Sam Gagner ... USHL goaltender of the year Matiss Kivlenieks is garnering interest from several NHL teams as a free agent, and the Blue Jackets are among those a reported desire to sign him ... Blue Jackets president of hockey operations says that part of his job is to look at the big picture, and well, "I like our big picture."

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