According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, John Tortorella will not be back as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets finished in last place in the Central Division after playing their last game of the season Saturday, a 5-4 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings.
Tortorella’s contract with Columbus expires this summer, but the bench boss has informed the hockey club that he has no intentions on returning.
The Blue Jackets finished the year with an 18-26-12 record and will miss the post-season for the second time in Tortorella’s six seasons with the team.
Without question, Torts leaves Columbus with the most successful stretch of play in franchise history. He posted a 227-166-54 record and was 13-18 in the playoffs.
For the record, Tortorella has yet to public confirm his intentions.
“I’ll put it to you this way. People talk about a shelf life, I don’t think there’s a shelf life for a coach,” Tortorella said Saturday. “But what I believe in is it the right fit. I think the fit of the players and personnel, I think that’s the most important thing. That’s something [general manager Jarmo Kekalainen] and I have discussed very honestly quite often. I get it. Am I the right fit? These are the things Jarmo and I have talked about. I think this will come to a solution very quickly here.”
That solution remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jackets wanting to blow it all up. They have made major strides over the last years and have plenty to build on, even if Tortorella is moving on.
The coach has no intentions of retiring, which means there’s a market for him somewhere. The Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres all do not have head coaches signed for next season.
The Blue Jackets hired Tortorella in the 2015-2016 season. By 2016-2017, he was leading the club to its best record to date and locking in 50 wins.
He leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history, but this season turned the tide and difficulties crowded the headlines in Columbus. Goal-scoring was problematic and public clashes with players, superficially or in reality, led to controversy. Getting out from under it is, frankly, the only solution for the coach and the team at this point.