John Tortorella Says He Needs to Learn From How He Handled William Karlsson, Who's Lighting It Up For Vegas

By Rob Mixer on June 7, 2018 at 10:02 am
Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson
Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports

It's the question everyone in Columbus wants an answer to.

"Where in the hell did this come from?"

This, of course, is William Karlsson's ridiculous breakout season of 43 regular-season goals and even more magic in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Vegas Golden Knights are in the Final against the Washington Capitals.

Karlsson is only 25 years old but was exposed by the Blue Jackets in last summer's expansion draft, then selected by Vegas after the two teams arranged a side deal that included Columbus' 2017 first-round pick and David Clarkson's dead weight contract. As we all know by now, Karlsson's meteoric rise hasn't helped matters in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets are still looking for dynamic players down the middle.

Speaking with Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter on 97.1 FM, Tortorella said watching Karlsson is two-fold: first, he's happy for Karlsson. Second, he wants to take a look in the mirror and ask if there's anything that could have been done differently.

"I don't regret how we handled him," Tortorella said of Karlsson, who scored six goals for the Blue Jackets in 2016-17. "When the series is over, I'll give him a couple of weeks, but I'm going to call Bill and ask him: is there anything I could have done differently to get that offense out of him? I do need to learn from it."

It's not as if everyone in the hockey world saw this coming from Karlsson, whose previous career high in goals was nine, set with the Blue Jackets in 2015-16. But whenever something like this happens, the internet wants to point fingers: is Jarmo Kekalainen at fault? Did the Blue Jackets make the wrong deal with Vegas? 

Tortorella said any number of scenarios could have produced a similar result for the Blue Jackets. What if Josh Anderson was selected by the Golden Knights and went on to have a 40-goal season while making $1.8 million? What if Joonas Korpisalo becomes a legitimate No. 1 goaltender and the Blue Jackets end up having a mess on their hands with Sergei Bobrovsky's next contract?

None of that makes what Karlsson is doing any easier to watch, but it's encouraging to hear Tortorella talk about wanting to dive deeper into his own coaching.

"I'm certainly not going to sit back here and see a guy score 40 goals and say 'man, we treated him OK, why didn't he do it for us?'" Tortorella said. "I'm going to talk to Bill."

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