Independence Day is later this week, but John Tortorella lit the fuse a few days early.
The Blue Jackets saw Jack Johnson depart via free agency on Sunday, signing a five-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins that was rumored for a few days. But it wasn't until Johnson got in front of reporters in Pittsburgh, only hours into his official tenure as a Penguin, that he made a...curious comment.
Johnson said he was excited to join the Penguins and finally be part of "a winning culture," which was pretty clearly a shot at the Blue Jackets. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford also claimed to know why Johnson was a healthy scratch down the stretch in Columbus, claiming that there was a reason beyond Johnson simply being the seventh-best defenseman on the Jackets' roster.
Once John Tortorella got wind of those comments, well, it was on.
He spoke with The Athletic's Aaron Portzline in what appeared to be a one-way conversation in response to Johnson and Rutherford's comments. A sampling:
“Jack and I had an open, honest conversation all through this. Jack and I have known one another forever, and I love the guy. There’s no agenda here. You think that’s an easy decision for me, after what Jack Johnson has been in this league and what he is?
“But that can’t get in my way as far as making the right decisions for this hockey club, and that’s all we do, so Rutherford should shut the fuck up.”
"And to have a general manager question our decision-making from three hours away, he must be a fucking magician.”
It seems as though most of Tortorella's angst was directed at Rutherford – and rightly so. These are uncalled-for comments from a GM, especially one that's going out of his way to defend a signing that's been blistered by every reputable analyst on the planet. Sticking his nose in another's team's business is petty.
Whether this feud ends here remains to be seen, but it's pretty clear that Tortorella is hell-bent on standing up for the Blue Jackets, and you can't hate that.
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