5 Potential Destinations for Former Blue Jackets Coach John Tortorella
The Columbus Blue Jackets and John Tortorella mutually agreed to part ways earlier in May. He spent six seasons behind their bench, guiding them to four playoff appearances and their first postseason series victory. During his second season as their head coach (2016-17), he won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Coach of the Year for the second time.
Tortorella has a reputation as a demanding and sometimes fiery-tempered coach. He's also among the more successful coaches in recent NHL history. He's tied with Peter Laviolette as the wins leaders (673) among American-born coaches and among just six coaches in league history to win the Jack Adams more than once.
He has a track record of getting the most out of a team. He guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004 and the New York Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012.
Several NHL clubs are either in the market for a new head coach or could seek one soon. Here's a look at five possible destinations for Tortorella.
Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray has given no indication he intends to replace head coach Dallas Eakins. On March 8, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reported Murray still had "total confidence" in Eakins. "I have no issues at all," he said.
The Ducks, however, could consider rebuilding after missing the playoffs for the third straight year. If they fail to show any sign of improvement next season, perhaps Murray will consider a coaching change.
That's where Tortorella could come in. He's had experience in taking over a coaching job during a campaign, having done so with the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Lightning. He also has a good record of taking over teams with young talent and turning them into playoff contenders, having accomplished this during his tenures with the Jackets and Lightning.
The Ducks have several promising young players in Maxime Comtois, Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. They could blossom into stars under Tortorella's tutelage.
The Arizona Coyotes are in the market for a new head coach after mutually agreeing to part company with Rick Tocchet. General manager Bill Armstrong inherited Tocchet when the executive was hired in September and now has the opportunity to bring in his own man. He could opt for an experienced coach like Tortorella.
Armstrong needs someone to help turn the long-moribund Coyotes into a perennial playoff contender. They have reached the postseason only once in the past nine seasons. That sole playoff appearance was only because of last year's expanded format under the NHL's COVID-19-enforced Return to Play plan.
The Coyotes have a decent core of 25-and-younger players. That encompasses forwards Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland, Nick Schmaltz and Christian Fischer, defenseman Jakob Chychrun and promising goalie Adin Hill. They also have a handful of notable veterans such as winger Phil Kessel, blueliner (and team captain) Oliver Ekman-Larsson and goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Assuming Armstrong doesn't shake up that core much this summer, they will need a coach who can bring out the best in those players. Tortorella, with his track record and ability to get players to buy into his system, could be what the Coyotes need.
If there's an NHL team that needs a collective kick in the pants, it's the Buffalo Sabres. This club last qualified for the playoffs a decade ago. Tortorella could be just the coach needed to reverse its fortunes.
The Sabres have gone through seven head coaches in the past decade. Two were former Jack Adams winners Lindy Ruff and Ted Nolan. Another was a Stanley Cup winner in Dan Bylsma. Despite their resumes, however, they lacked Tortorella's long record of success.
It can be argued Tortorella's demanding style and prickly temperament could make him the wrong choice to handle a fragile Sabres lineup. Nevertheless, he has an undeniable knack for getting the most out of his players.
If Tortorella is up for the challenge and has management's backing to do things his way, he could prove a good fit. He would quickly garner the respect of the players, while his presence could help shake this club out of its losing culture.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers job opened when they fired David Quinn earlier in May. That soon prompted speculation that Tortorella could return to Broadway. On May 12, Forbes.com's Carol Schram suggested he could be among the potential candidates.
Still, a reunion seems unlikely. The New York Post's Larry Brooks cited sources claiming Gerard Gallant topped their list of candidates. He later reported they interviewed the former Vegas Golden Knights head coach before his departure for Europe to coach Team Canada at the upcoming World Championship.
However, Brooks also noted Tortorella still enjoys warm relationships with chairman James Dolan and Rangers senior adviser Glen Sather. If they don't land Gallant or others on their wishlist, perhaps they will consider bringing back their former bench boss.
Brooks argued this isn't the right time to hire a coach who prefers to tear down and rebuild players to fit his system or uses confrontation as a team-building tool. Still, there's no denying Tortorella would provide the culture and character change Dolan seeks.
In April, we listed the top potential coaching candidates for the Seattle Kraken. With the Carolina Hurricanes reportedly working on a three-year contract extension for Rod Brind'Amour (stick tap to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman), Tortorella becomes a logical replacement in our top five.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis recently stated his preference to hire a head coach with NHL experience. Tortorella's impressive resume should put him among the favorites for the position.
Joining an expansion franchise would be a challenge for Tortorella. He's never been in that position as an NHL bench boss. However, this would give him an opportunity to work with Kraken management to build a roster from the ground up.
Francis indicated one reason for hiring an experienced coach was because of how quickly that individual would have to get everyone to come together before the season opens in October. Tortorella's ability to quickly mold rosters during most of his previous coaching gigs would prove beneficial in this job.