Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets were picked by many, including myself, to make the playoffs this year. The key addition of Brandon Saad was supposed to improve the team drastically. However, after a 0-7-0 start to their season, many people might be recanting their statements.
On Wednesday, October 21st, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach Todd Richards and hired John Tortorella (Torts) as the new coach. Torts brings experience and a Stanley Cup ring from when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Along with signing him, Columbus has to give a second round pick to Vancouver because Torts was last employed by them and he was fired. The pick would’ve been a third rounder if Torts was hired during the off-season, but during the season requires it to be a second rounder. Columbus also agreed to keep some of their assistant coaches, maintaining familiarity with the players.
The team only has two players that are even in plus-minus this year, and the rest of the team is a minus. Goaltending has been another serious issue with save percentage under NHL average, and Sergei Bobrovsky has the league’s worst with .835. The star players in Columbus might be another major issue. Ryan Johansen, the number one center, only has one goal in the year thus far. There are only three players with multiple goals: Brandon Saad (3), Boone Jenner (3) and Scott Hartnell (2). Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen led the team in points last season, but this season each only has one goal through 7 games. The record resembles their performances on ice and their stats.
I feel like the firing of Todd Richards was unfair, and how they did it was very unprofessional. It’s not the coach’s fault if the franchise goalie forgot how to play hockey overnight. I understand it’s not all Bobrovsky’s fault, but he has a goals-against average of 5.07 in addition to his league’s worst save percentage. The defense is another struggle. David Savard and Dalton Prout have plus-minuses of minus 9 on the season. Defense is where Richards could be blamed, but you can only use what you have, and GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t strengthen the back end this off-season, he only went after forwards.
The Blue Jackets screwed up in their hiring process after the 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night. The management began looking into new coaches and had actually agreed to a deal with Torts before letting Todd Richards know he was fired. This is crap and actually makes me sick. The headline Wednesday morning was Richards out Torts in, and I understand the need for action, but come on. Torts, however, doesn’t have full control of his staff because Richards’ assistants stayed with team. Normally the head coach is allowed to pick his assistant coaches, but not in this situation. Now Columbus has to hope one of the most hard-headed coaches in the league gets along with these assistants.
To wrap up, the Blue Jackets won’t go winless all season, so Torts will get a win, but unless Bobrovsky remembers how to play hockey, the Blue Jackets will not make the playoffs. Columbus will realize the issues weren’t behind the bench but in goal and in weak defensemen. The Blue Jackets’ next game is Thursday vs. Minnesota Wild.