John Tortorella will not return as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a source told ESPN Saturday night.
There has been heavy speculation in recent weeks that Tortorella’s six-season season with the Blue Jackets would end. He has no contract for next season, and Columbus finished in last place in the Central Division with an 18-26-12 record (.429 points percent).
“It was awful. I’m not even sure if we won two games in a row. I know we did not win three in a row,” Tortorella said. “This was a kick in the teeth for me. I’m struggling with it.”
Tortorella, whose blue jackets survived the Red Wings 5-4 in overtime Saturday night, finished with a record of 227-1
When ESPN was asked on Saturday if he would like to return as Blue Jackets coach next season, Tortorella was not obligated.
“I want to say it to you this way: I think the discussion it [Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen] and I have … people talk about durability. I do not think there is durability for a coach. But what I believe in is whether it is the right fit between the coach and the players. “I think that’s the most important thing,” said Tortorella. And that’s something Jarmo and I have discussed very honestly. I understand it. Do I have the right fit? These are the things we’ve talked about. “
Regular season finale in Columbus, Ohio, felt like a goodbye to Tortorella. Fans shouted his name during the game. And the coach made the unusual move of having all the Blue Jackets coaches – including video coach Dan Singleton – work the game behind the bench.
Veteran wing Cam Atkinson, who played for Tortorella throughout his coaching career in Columbus, talked about how much he valued his time with him. “It’s been six years together. Learned a lot from him. Absolutely grown, not just as a hockey player, but as a person,” he said. “That’s all you want as a player. A coach who trusts you.”
As usual, Tortorella’s season in Columbus had its controversies with the players. His high-profile benching of center Pierre-Luc Dubois preceded the Jackets’ trade with him to Winnipeg for star wing Patrik Laine, whom Tortorella also subsequently benched. But Tortorella said he is still tied with many of the players on the list.
“The players in there, I grew up with them,” he said. “I started at a very old age with this team, but I was still growing up with these guys. It has been an honor to coach them.”
Tortorella has also coached Lightning, Rangers and Canucks.
Athletic was the first to report the end of his time in Columbus.