There's no denying the impact John Tortorella has had on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
You know the resume by now: the winningest stretch of any coach in franchise history. More playoff appearances than any coach in franchise history. And the first playoff series win(s) in franchise history – including a stunning 2019 sweep of the Presidents Trophy winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But two things can be true at the same time: Tortorella can be revered and appreciated for his time here, and it can also be time for him to move on. After a season full of smoke about his future, it appears as though the aforementioned scenario is on the horizon in Columbus.
Speaking on NBCSN's pregame show Wednesday, hockey insider Darren Dreger addressed a trio of soon-to-be-free-agent NHL coaches, including Tortorella.
"(Tortorella is) not expected to be back in Columbus," Dreger said. "His contract expires at the end of the year. He's certainly been part of a tumultuous season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, isn't showing his hand and isn't talking about what the future is or isn't for John Tortorella. It seems likely that he (will) be a free agent."
Entering Thursday's slate of games, the Blue Jackets occupy last place in the Central Division, a stunning fall from grace for a team that's prided itself on consistency and competitiveness under Kekalainen and Tortorella.
Before this season, only a small handful of teams had won as many regular season games as the Blue Jackets since 2016-17. Their postseason success was (and is) a slow-moving process, but they have won series in consecutive postseasons–and yes, the Qualifying Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs does count.
But it's seemingly come unglued for Tortorella and the Blue Jackets this year. They've never settled into the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season and it's been one news item after another from this team, which is the opposite of how Kekalainen prefers things to go. Tortorella has opted to bench or healthy scratch each of Kekalainen's offseason and in-season acquisitions, and nothing has coalesced into respectability.
The writing is on the wall: the Blue Jackets will likely be in the head coaching market this summer.