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After this week’s antics, John Tortorella’s time in Columbus has finally run out

The coach has taken the team to the playoffs, but the lack of relative success and now off-ice drama have finally outweighed the benefits.

NHL: JAN 28 Panthers at Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

October 21, 2015 - The Columbus Blue Jackets hired John Tortorella. Let’s have a look at some of the instant reactions from The Cannon commenters:

If you would have asked me what my worst-case 15-16 CBJ scenario would look like, I would have replied, “Something along the lines of a 0-7 start and Torts becoming coach.” I really hope this guy is just a placeholder. Posted by CannonGoesBoom

Not the most auspicious start.

he has always come off as an unnecessary bully who believes he is the most important person on the team. Columbus doesn’t need that right now or ever. He didnt even make it a year with Vancouver and I’m pretty sure everybody hated him in New York. With spending going way up, it doesn’t make any sense to bring in a coach who alienates players and the media and fans just for the short term burst you get from change. Even if this works out, I still think it was a terrible decision for the future of the franchise. Posted by awwwwwwwop

I’m still convinced that this team was close to turning things around on their own. They’ve played well for spurts, but the minute something went wrong, things would spiral out of control. More than a new coach, this team needs a sports psychologist. If it’s a matter of getting them to play their game for a full 60 minutes, then I think Torts could be a good fit. If we had kept Richards, I think we just needed a game where we finally got lucky breaks going our way, then the team would have gotten their confidence back. That’s still what we need, ultimately. Posted by Pale Dragon

I think there’s a chance Torts could thrive in a small market like Columbus. Coaching in New York or Vancouver would be a nightmare because of the rabid media and crazed fans. He can fly under the radar a bit in Columbus and not have to worry about everyone breathing down his neck. I’m just trying to make myself feel better, folks…. Posted by Dalerrific

As for an outside view point?

Rangers Fan Here. On balance I thought he was an excellent coach. The team did improve under him. I had two issues: 1) he seemed hesitant to bring rookies into the rotation; and 2) he DIDtend to grind the team down with that “82 game playoff” style. And that approach IS one you can only employ for a year or two. But after he left the team did retain positives from his high expectations. The yelling and emotional nonsense was, at least to me, a side show. I have no idea how the players reacted. I bet they enjoyed the winning. I wish your team the best of success under Tortorella. Posted by antlers for sale

Well, that tracks.

Tortorella took over a Blue Jackets team in flux. They finished 34-33-8 under Tortorella (after starting 0-7 under Todd Richards). The Blue Jackets proceeded to make the playoffs each of the next four seasons, earning points at a .659, .591, .598, and .579 percentage clip. Under Tortorella, the team also won their first ever series in the postseason, upsetting the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning.

He hasn’t been without controversy or headlines during his time here.

In 2019, he made headlines for ripping NHL officials and the replay process.

There was the time he compared Matt Calvert to a commode:

Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert said on Tuesday he was “bothered” by coach John Tortorella describing his performance in the regular season as “up and down, like a toilet seat.”

There was the time he made noise during the controversy surrounding the national anthem:

On Tuesday, Tortorella told ESPN: “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.” The coach seemed taken aback Wednesday by the reaction to his comment, but he did not backtrack on his stance. “I’m not backing off,” Tortorella said after the team’s on-ice workout Wednesday.

He has clashed with officials, the media, and players in the locker room. This week, however, he may have finally crossed a line that fans can no longer accept or overlook.

On Monday night, Tortorella benched newly acquired winger Patrik Laine for the latter part of the second and the entirety of the third periods against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fans were, to put it mildly, displeased.

I used to be supportive of Tortorella, but last night’s benching of Laine and Kukan was over-the-top wrong. I am surprised Jarmo hasn’t already fired him. This is the wrong coach for this team. I should have been happy with the win last night but was actually furious that we somehow eeked out the two points. It only emboldened Tortorella. Posted by Oscar M

I think Torts has different standards for different players. Cam, Boone and Fligs get more ice time to “work through it” and “figure it out.” Domi gets moved to wing while Foudy and Bemstrom get taken out of the lineup so they can “relax and find his game” or “take a step back to watch and learn.” It appears ice time based on merit doesn’t apply to the veterans who “play the right way.” Posted by AKbax

Im starting to believe Torts watches the players scrambling in their own zone or chasing the play and thinks they’re actually playing well because of the effort they have to expend while getting caved in. I wonder if he would bench Patrice Bergeron because his hockey IQ is so high he’s always in the right spot. He makes it look effortless. Posted by Panman21

It was reported the next day that Laine was benched after he “mouthed off” to an assistant coach. By then, however, the damage was done - Tortorella had seemingly gone too far, benching a star player just four games into his tenure with the club, potentially jeopardizing his potential to re-sign with the club long term, and making headlines just weeks after Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded for being disgruntled (and before PLD even made his debut for his new club).

Blue Jackets fans seemed to come together around one idea: Tortorella had done a lot for the franchise, but it is time to move on and find a new head coach.

“We’re just disjointed in all areas. Quite honestly on and off the ice.”

Upon reflection, there’s your money quote. Fans have taken issues with many things Torts has done over his time here - benching some players and not others, putting certain players in the lineup who were underperforming while scratching others, deployment issues and ice time – but this felt bigger, like there is something rotten here in the locker room. PLD left without ever giving a reason as to why he wanted out. There have been reports of players being disgruntled, we have seen player after player clash with coaching staff, issues in negotiations. There is something rotten here, and it’s time to start excising potential root causes.

I listened to 31 Thoughts earlier this week and I have been thinking a lot about Braden Holtby postgame in Vancouver (I’m paraphrasing a bit since I can’t find the exact quote): “We’re not good enough right now. We need to be in a place where we’re playing for each other and we’re not okay with a second round exit. I’ve been through those, and that’s not good enough.”

Sound familiar?

This coaching staff was brought in to change the culture here – rumors of “country club atmosphere” abounded, teams fine with mediocrity and missing the playoffs in the relatively pressure free city of Columbus. For several years, a culture of accountability was present – not only from coaches, but from players who demanded more (thinking specifically of Artemi Panarin, who demanded better through his talent and play on the ice). Players were held to a high standard, not only by the coaches but by each other. When Sergei Bobrovsky stormed off in Tampa Bay, he was suspended by the leadership group of the team, not by the organization proper. Accountability has been a hallmark of this organization in the past, but it is no longer.

In the last year or two, that message has gotten lost. Players have left, and the coaching staff has run out of ways to find answers. There is no accountability internally, either amongst the players themselves, or from the coaching staff holding themselves responsible for mistakes. Punishments are dolled out unfairly and seemingly at random, with certain guys escaping judgment while others skate by, making mistake after mistake while not losing ice time. Blatant lineup errors go unaddressed and unchallenged. Players dump and chase the puck, cycling around the boards with no attempts to send the puck around the crease.

There’s no purpose, no direction - either in the coaching staff, or on the ice.

The message has been lost, and the coaching staff has not provided a solution, nor do they appear to have the capacity currently to make the changes (through introspection and honest self reflection) necessary to right the ship. As a result, there is only one logical conclusion one can draw, for the good of the future of the franchise and to begin the process of rectifying the culture:

The coaching staff must go. Players must be held to account equally, and those that are in the room that are okay with the status quo need to be jettisoned, regardless of fan favorite status (as their contract allows). Invest in a culture that believes in bringing success and utilize players and talent in their best capacity. This is not an overnight process, but for the long term health of the franchise, tinkering around the edges will not fix the issues that have been laid bare over the first 15 games of the season.

There are no answers internally. It’s time to start looking elsewhere. It’s time for John Tortorella to go.