The seventh straight loss to start the season was the final nail in the coffin for now-former Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Wednesday morning that Richards has been let go from his position as Columbus’ bench boss and will be replaced by John Tortorella, the former Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks coach.
The rumblings about Richards’ job being in danger began as soon as the Blue Jackets slumped out of the gate, but by the time Columbus reached 0-4-0, there were reports that firing Richards could be the big change GM Jarmo Kekalainen made to try to shake up his club. Kekalainen decided to stick with his coach after Columbus’ sixth straight loss, but after Tuesday night’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders, Richards was let go.
After the Blue Jackets loss Tuesday night, veteran center Brandon Dubinsky tried to take some of the pressure off of Richards, but in the end, it was the coach who shouldered the blame for the poor start.
“There’s 23 guys in here,” Dubinsky told The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline. “He’s working his (butt) off. He’s trying to change things, make us a better team…He cares a lot about winning. He cares deeply about this organization, the city, the fans, the team, the players…I feel like we’re letting him down, and it’s unfortunate. It’s a really (crappy) feeling.”
Over his past three and a half seasons behind the Columbus bench, Richards coached the Blue Jackets to a 127-112-21 record, including the franchise’s second ever playoff berth and first playoff victories in 2013-14. The franchise has not, however, won a playoff round in its history.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Blue Jackets began to negotiate a deal with Tortorella, who has been out of work since the end of the 2013-14 season, Tuesday after Columbus dropped its seventh straight game. The contract was signed by 1:30 a.m. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston added that the Canucks will get a second-round pick from the Blue Jackets as part of the NHL’s compensation rules.
Tortorella will make his Blue Jackets debut Thursday when Columbus visits Minnesota to take on the Wild.