Vegas Odds: Oddball Edition
Or, “Why John Tortorella isn’t getting fired this year.”
I was at work the other day when this information came through my inbox:
Who will be the first Head Coach fired during the 2016-2017 NHL Season? John Tortorella (CLB) 13/4 Willie Desjardins (VAN) 7/2 Jack Capuano (NYI) 15/4 Michel Therrien (MTL) 11/2 Claude Julien (BOS) 13/2 Paul Maurice (WPG) 7/1 Alain Vigneault (NYR) 7/1
My first reaction?
There is no way John Tortorella is getting fired this year, short of him leading the team to 20 wins and punching reporters in postgame interviews. None. Here’s why:
Firing Tortorella would force the front office to admit catastrophic failure and put them squarely on the hot seat, if not out the door immediately.
I could just end the article right here. John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen brought in Torts because he, according to them, has a track record of coaching up young players, of improving defensive structure, and fit the mold of “Blue Jackets hockey” and the identity the front office wants to establish on the ice. He cost the team a second round pick to sign, and the team thought that he was worth that price.
To admit that they failed so quickly would throw into question their ability to construct a winning roster, and whether or not the fanbase should have any faith in the group going forward. Coupled with the loss of a second round pick, it is very hard to imagine them cutting Torts loose.
Torts hasn’t even been here a calendar year yet.
Kind of a corollary to part one, but it bears mentioning. Tortorella was hired after Todd Richards imploded at the start of last season, and more importantly, lost the room and the confidence of the front office. None of those have happened yet with Tortorella. Torts is known, fairly or unfairly, across the league as a hardass, volatile coach, prone to outbursts and driving star players out. However, he has shown exactly zero of those tendencies while here in Columbus. He has worked hard to change the culture in the locker room and to bring a winning mentality – a mentality focused on 100% commitment and effort on every shift. That doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s happening- the team hasn’t looked overmatched or ready to fold. There have been two losses, and some mistakes, sure- but that is not saying that the team is falling apart. The team I have seen on the ice this season is far more mentally strong than the one I saw last season. That’s progress, even if there is a zero in the win column as of this writing.
We’re building for the future- not for this season.
Look at the other names on that list upthread- Capuano, Therrien, Vigneault. Coaches of playoff teams (or, in Julien’s case, teams that just missed but have won the Cup recently). Those teams are far more desperate for a Stanley Cup, because their window isn’t open as long to win a championship. The Islanders may need a shakeup to get out of the first round. The New York Rangers won’t be able to ride their goaltender forever- their window is shorter than most, and as such, could make a desperate move. Julien had an epic collapse last season, and could need a strong start to guarantee safety.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are not in “win now” mode. The team can afford to be patient, to take a longer view, and to build a culture that holds each and every player, coach, and member of the front office accountable. It would behoove them to be patient and take a longer view of the process, which would mean keeping Torts in Columbus for a long period of time.
In conclusion: Torts is not going anywhere.