FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2014, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Columbus, Ohio Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. After an 0-7 start, the Blue jackets have fired coach Todd Richards and replaced him with John Tortorella, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — John Tortorella is back coaching in the NHL after the Columbus Blue Jackets fired Todd Richards on Wednesday with the team off to an 0-7 start.
Tortorella, who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, has been out of hockey since the Canucks fired him in May 2014 after one season in Vancouver. He takes over for Richards, who had been with the Blue Jackets since 2012 and led them to only their second NHL playoff appearance in 2013-14, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round.
Richards was on the hot seat after Columbus became just the sixth NHL team to open with seven consecutive losses with a 4-0 defeat against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. It’s the Blue Jackets’ worst start to a season in franchise history, and their longest losing streak since dropping seven straight in regulation from Nov. 11-25, 2005.
That’s not the type of start that was expected from a team that restocked its roster this summer after closing last season on 16-2-1 run.
“None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has. And every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in statement released by the team. “There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we’ve set for this season.”
Tortorella signed a three-year contract and will make his debut Thursday when Columbus visits Minnesota.
With a 446-375-115 record over 14 seasons, the 57-year-old Tortorella is the NHL’s winningest U.S.-born coach.
“John Tortorella is an experienced National Hockey League coach with a proven track record of success,” Kekalainen said. “He is a Stanley Cup winner, and we believe the right person to lead our team at this time.”
And Tortorella is suddenly in demand after his year off.
Last month, he was hired by USA Hockey to coach the American team competing in the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey tournament next year.
Tortorella acknowledged spending the past year soul-searching to determine what he might have done differently in Vancouver. It was a season in which a second-half collapse led to the Canucks missing the playoffs three years after reaching the Stanley Cup final.
“I have searched and looked at situations of what I could’ve done a better job there, and I do have some answers with that,” he said. “So sure, I think you become a better coach when you dig deep.”
Richards finished with a 127-112-21 record with the Blue Jackets.
They have scored just 13 goals and have allowed an NHL-worst 34 goals. Veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is struggling with a 5.07 goals-against average and an 83.5 save percentage.
This story has been corrected that Blue Jackets have made playoffs twice.
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