Blue Jackets: Tortorella’s Power Play Comments are Concerning

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella addressed the media regarding the team’s power play on Monday. He made a point to defend assistant coach Brad Larsen and to take responsibility himself for the power play woes.

On the surface, what Tortorella was trying to do makes sense. He’s trying to stick up for his guy in order to keep the coaches and players on the same page. His specific quotes to the media, however, are concerning if you ask me.

The Blue Jackets power play is ugly. It’s been bad for years, and Larsen has been the man in charge of it for a while now. Naturally, fans on the internet have been complaining about him for some time now. It’s back in discussion now, particularly, because of a game-winning, shorthanded goal scored against the Blue Jackets last Saturday.

This Twitter thread from Alison Lukan shows Tortorella’s quotes from Monday. As usual, he’s coming off as passionate about his team and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Passion isn’t what I have a problem with, but I struggle to accept his explanations as the message comes off as inconsistent.

Tortorella Admits that the Power Play “Sucks”

One of Tortorella’s quotes from Monday was, “Our power play sucks.” What’s inconsistent is another quote in which he said, “It’s his power play,” referring to Larsen.

Tortorella does go on to explain how Larsen isn’t the only one involved, but he still recognized that it’s his power play. That’s where the dots need to connect.

John Tortorella Blue Jackets bench
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets bench, Feb. 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets power play is bigger than one man. There’s more to it than being loyal to a guy who’s been around for a while. They are tied for the most shorthanded goals allowed this season with three, which isn’t surprising at all.

I’m sure Larsen comes in every day and works hard at his job, but that’s not the only factor in evaluating a power play coach. Tortorella mentioned that Larsen is, “A good coach,” and I don’t doubt that at all. I won’t say Larsen is a bad hockey coach. But that doesn’t mean he’s a good power play coach, though.

Sure, keep him on the staff. I bet his relationship with the players is great after being involved with the Blue Jackets for years. Yet, the refusal to even acknowledge that he might need to improve is a concern.

If you’re going to defend Larsen by recognizing the strong Blue Jackets power play for half a season in 2016-17, where’s the same mindset for the terrible power play ever since then? It doesn’t add up.

The Results Speak for Themselves

Being a coach means your evaluation is ultimately based on wins and losses. It’s a coach’s job to put players in the right position to succeed and win games.

If a coach doesn’t get results, they should be fired. It’s not always about the coach being terrible, but that’s the way it goes. That’s the life of being a coach in a professional sport.

For some reason, the Blue Jackets power play isn’t held to a high standard. Even the best players in the world need to be coached, and the Blue Jackets could benefit from a change of direction.

Continuing the narrative that it’s up to the players to execute isn’t looking at the full story. Yes, the players do need to execute, but their skill isn’t the only factor in scoring power play goals.

John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL
John Tortorella (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Questionable coaching and management decisions are expected from time to time, but dragging out a situation for years and giving the same response is laughable. It makes sense if the organization likes Larsen and doesn’t want to let him go, that’s fine, but hire a new power play coach. The results are black and white and prove that the power play has been terrible.

How many more times will the Blue Jackets allow a shorthanded goal to be the difference in a game before making a change? I don’t blame fans for questioning the power play coaching. There’s nothing wrong with holding your team to a high standard.

Something has to change. They have good players who should be able to put together a confident-looking group with a man advantage. The team is being held back by a struggling power play and it’s time it gets fixed.