Sunday: The Columbus Blue Jackets have made it official. Both Kekalainen and Tortorella released statements today.
“Torts and I have had numerous discussions throughout the season, and we have agreed that the time is right for both he and the club to go different ways,” said Kekalainen (via NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti). “He is a great coach and his accomplishments with our club over the past six seasons speak for themselves. He has played an integral role in our success since his arrival, and we are extremely grateful for his passion and commitment to the Blue Jackets and our city. He was the right coach at the right time and helped us establish a standard that we will carry forward.”
“After discussion and consideration of the future direction of the team, Jarmo and I have come to a mutual agreement to part ways,” said Tortorella (via The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline). “I’d like to thank the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for the opportunity to coach this team and live in the great Columbus area. It has been a privilege to work with the players, coaches and hockey operations staff, which is one of the best in the League. Also, I want to thank the CBJ fans and the community for the support they’ve given the team and for the work of the CBJ family in support of the community. My family and I have loved living and working in the area. We have made life-long friends here, so we do feel considerable sadness, which is to be expected, when something so meaningful comes to an end. This is a great hockey community and I wish everyone here great success moving forward. Thank you again.”
Saturday: The Columbus Blue Jackets season has ended and so has John Tortorella’s tenure as head coach. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that Tortorella, whose contract expires at the end of this season, will not return for 2021-22.
Portzline adds that “all indications suggest” that the veteran coach wants to continue running a bench in the NHL, meaning there is suddenly a very experienced option on the market. Tortorella sits 12th on the all-time list for NHL games coached with 1,383. One more full season would put him into the top eight, passing Mike Keenan (1,386), Pat Quinn (1,400), Ron Wilson (1,401), and Dick Irvin (1,449). He has won the Jack Adams award twice, one of only four coaches to win it with two different teams.
It’s been six full seasons in Columbus, taking over in 2015-16 and leading the team to the postseason four times. This year has been very different though, with the Blue Jackets winning just 18 of 56 games and finishing behind the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. It’s been a season full of headlines, with Pierre-Luc Dubois forcing his way out of Columbus, while Tortorella clashed with newcomers Patrik Laine and Max Domi. Big changes appear imminent for the Blue Jackets, who already sold off Nick Foligno and David Savard at the deadline, among others.
Though it has been clear for a while that Tortorella likely wasn’t being brought back, there has still been no official announcement from the team. Whenever it comes, there will be plenty of accolades heaped on Tortorella’s time in Columbus. His numbers for the organization dwarf the likes of Ken Hitchcock, Todd Richards and Dave King, the only three other coaches who have been behind the bench for at least 200 Columbus games. Tortorella’s time finishes with 447 games coached and a 227-166-54 record. He has been the coach in 31 of the team’s 41 postseason appearances.