Blue Jackets fans worried they'd miss John Tortorella didn't have to wait long to see the coach who led the franchise to its first postseason win.
Tortorella, who left Columbus in May, appeared on the debut episode of The Point, ESPN's new NHL studio show, Thursday, offering analysis on the Tampa Bay Lightning, the expansion Seattle Kraken, and other topics.
In the opening segment, host John Buccigross welcomed Tortorella and begged him to “try not to swear” before asking the longtime coach what the difference was between the Lightning team his Blue Jackets swept in 2019 and the team that's won the last two Stanley Cups.
“They can play different ways now,” Tortorella said. ”When we played them they had no adversity at all during the regular season. 62 wins, was it, in the regular season? They knew how to play one way and that was carrying the puck. They were stubborn against us as far as getting the puck in and having some grind to their game.”
Tortorella went on to discuss how Tampa Bay's stars didn't get it done in the series, a four-game sweep by the eighth seed Blue Jackets.
“You could get Kucherov off his game, which we did.”
“You could get [Nikita] Kucherov off his game, which we did. He has matured so much now. [Victor] Hedman got hurt. Andy ran him out of the series, Josh Anderson. [Andrei] Vasilevskiy was average, I think, in that series. Now he's the best goalie in the world.”
But Tortorella sees a different Lightning team now.
“They can grind,” Tortorella said. “They can play different ways. I think the general manager, and the coach, and that whole organization has done a hell of a job after that loss against us in changing their mindset in how to play the game in different ways and they deserve to be the Cup winner the past two years.”
So, Torts didn't even make it through his first ESPN segment without swearing, but we didn't expect anything different.
The 63-year-old led the Blue Jackets for six seasons until departing in May in what was described as a mutual decision with the club. He signed with ESPN in August as part of the network's return to hockey as part of a seven-year television and streaming deal with the NHL.
The 2021-22 NHL season begins October 12 with a doubleheader on ESPN featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Lightning and the Kraken at the Vegas Golden Nights.