Happy Two-Year Anniversary, John Tortorella: As It Turns Out, You're Still a Pretty Good Coach

By Rob Mixer on October 21, 2017 at 3:14 pm
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella

Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports

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Oct. 21, 2015 was a dark day at the time.

The Blue Jackets were 0-7-0. It's tough to be that bad if you try.

Todd Richards was let go and in came John Tortorella, the guy who spent only one season with the Vancouver Canucks (and was actually criticized for where he lived) and then did analyst work for NHL Network. On his way out the door in Vancouver, the local media made sure to answer all the tough questions that, for some reason, weren't asked when he was coaching there.

It's fair to wonder if Tortorella was fired because of his infamous march down the visitors' dressing room hallway to fight then-Flames coach Bob Hartley; the Canucks' record was strong at the start of the season before injuries came in bunches, and the team faded away down the stretch. Trevor Linden had an easy decision as the new president to hire his own GM and his own head coach.

Here's an excerpt from the piece mentioned above:

Tortorella never actually lived in Vancouver. Instead, he lived in nearby Point Roberts, which is across the American border, but only about a 45-minute drive from Rogers Arena on a good day. For practice days (which were so rare the players complained) Tortorella would drive in for a brief appearance, and then head home, leaving his assistants to handle everything else.

Mike Gillis got so frustrated with his quick turnarounds that the team eventually built a bed into Tortorella's office so he could take naps there instead of driving home. You can watch Willie Desjardins react with bemusement to the fold-out bed in this video of the Canucks showing their new coach into his office.

Look closely and you'll see that many things mentioned above are, in fact, the same as Tortorella is doing in Columbus. The Blue Jackets limit their practices to non-game days (short, demanding sessions) and they're mindful of getting appropriate rest in a hectic 82-game schedule. Apparently, the Canucks equated that to not caring which led a bunch of experts to believe that Tortorella was done coaching.

Tortorella doesn't exactly live in a downtown Columbus condo right now, and it seems to be working out. That's because no one cares, and shouldn't care. The once destined-for-exile head coach is 89-56-16 (.652 points percentage) in his tenure with the Blue Jackets, piloted the club to 50 wins and the NHL's third-best record in his first full season, and won the second Jack Adams Award of his career. They're also a respectable-to-strong possession team and play an entertaining brand of hockey.

Man, what an idiot.

John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen sent a second-round pick to the Canucks as compensation for hiring Tortorella (a stupid rule that has seen been abolished), and they should have included a "thank you" card.

Tortorella's redemption arc is a great lesson for all of us: when you think you know everything about someone — and in many cases, those who buried Tortorella have never met him or worked with him — you probably don't. And when you give someone a chance who has something to prove, you just might get their best.

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