The Columbus Blue Jackets have fallen back to earth after their historic 16-game win streak to start the new year.
In the 17 contests since their string of wins was broken by the Washington Capitals on Jan. 5, the club has earned a record of 8-8-1.
And while their situation is far from dire—they remain in third place league-wide with 75 points—their recent struggles may have been enough to cause some tension at the rink.
“There was a meeting there the other day, and I think there was just some requests. I know publicly and privately, they’ve just asked him to be a little easier,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on Saturday night.
“The feeling amongst the players is maybe some of that old style of Tortorella had crept in on the bench,” said Nick Kypreos. “We were told that there was a closed-door meeting amongst the players and Tortorella.
“Usually it’s the coach giving it to the players but in this instance I think they were looking for Tortorella to go back and find a few more positive things to find the last few games.”
Over his 16-year NHL coaching career, Tortorella has earned himself a reputation for being a tough and outspoken bench boss—both with players and media. This “safe is death” style has brought plenty of success—including a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay in 2004—but has also made him one of the league’s most polarizing coaches.
After an unsuccessful outing at the helm of Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey back in September, all signs pointed to him embracing change with the young Blue Jackets as they rode their wave of success up the standings.
“He is who he is, that’s how he coaches. He’s a fiery guy,” said former NHL player and coach Adam Oates. “They did win 16 in a row, so the fact that they had a little hiccup, maybe the players are a little over-thinking it, because I’m sure he still yelled during the 16-[game] winning streak.”
That streak included Tortorella’s 500th career coaching win, making him the first U.S.-born coach in league history to do so.
“That’s the way he likes to coach, and there’s moments maybe he gets a little too much, but… he’s had success that way,” said Oates.