A change was needed in Columbus. They didn’t wait very long after going 0-7-0 to get their man.
Just hours after their latest defeat, a 4-0 home shutout to the New York Islanders, the Columbus Blue Jackets got busy. They knew that something needed to change. That change was the firing of Todd Richards and the hiring of John Tortorella.
Talk about going from one end of the spectrum to the other.
In Richards, the Blue Jackets had a guy who knew the game of hockey. There weren’t many coaches who knew the X’s and O’s of the game as well as Richards. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in the league.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets needed something that Richards couldn’t give them; a fiery personality in the locker room. Enter Tortorella.
Tortorella’s hiring signals a major changing of the guard in Columbus. In comes a coach with winning playoff experience who knows how to get the best out of young players. He can light a fire under players. Sometimes, that fire is a little too hot. Tortorella is exactly what Columbus needs at this point.
If there is one thing that we can take away from this hiring, it is this: We are about to find out which players can handle the heat, and which ones can’t. With Tortorella in charge, playtime is over.
It’s simple. If you’re not performing, no matter who you are, you’re not playing. It doesn’t matter if you are a first line forward or a third pairing defenseman, Tortorella expects the same kind of effort from you on every shift. He’s not afraid to tell you exactly how it is.
Can this rub some players the wrong way? Absolutely it can. Just think back to when current Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky was on the Rangers. His coach on that team was Tortorella.
Dubinsky admitted that at the end of his tenure with the Rangers, his relationship with Tortorella fell apart. They had their good moments. But they had more than their share of rocky ones. Rangers GM Glen Sather dealt Dubinsky and others to Columbus in the summer of 2012.
This certainly is a possibility when you have someone with Tortorella’s personality. Some players can get rubbed the wrong way. Others however respond well. This is the storyline that I will watch for the rest of the season.
All too often, different Blue Jackets players weren’t giving a full effort. At the same time, these players weren’t suffering the consequences of their poor play. Richards was not the “in your face” type of coach. Tortorella will change that in a hurry.
Who will rise up and respond to the challenge? Who will get offended? What if a top player gets scratched? How will they handle riding the pine? How will they handle it when Tortorella confronts them? The Blue Jackets are a young team who isn’t used to having a fiery personality on the bench.
This season will now be one of separation. We will quickly find out who will rise up and who will not. Need a reminder of how fiery Tortorella is? Check out this clip from 24/7. This is what the Blue Jackets will now see.
The Blue Jackets by no means are out of the playoff race. If Tortorella can get the team’s attention, they’ll return to the playoff race in no time. If you notice an extra spring in the Blue Jackets step, it’s because Tortorella is motivating this team.
Management did what they had to do. Now the spotlight turns right back to the players. They play their first game Thursday night in Minnesota. Which team are we going to see? The time is now for this team to start winning games.
Playtime is over in Columbus.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.