Canucks win big thanks to Blue Jackets hiring Tortorella

Hockey Central at Noon discussion on John Tortorella hopefully becoming the saviour in Columbus, with Nick Kypreos saying he's a great coach and good guy, but the issue always becomes his off-ice antics.

John Tortorella’s stint as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks was such a disappointment that he admitted “I deserved to be fired” shortly after being shown the door.

He lasted all of one season. He was still owed four more years of his $2-million annual salary when he was dismissed in May 2014 — rendering his hiring an incredibly expensive mistake for the Canucks.

Early Wednesday morning, however, the Canucks found a silver lining.

Before the Columbus Blue Jackets could replace Todd Richards with Tortorella, they first had to assume an undisclosed portion of his remaining salary while also agreeing to send a second-round pick Vancouver’s way, as per the NHL’s compensation rule.

It was a steep price to pay and a pretty good indication of how desperate the situation is in Columbus.

Understandably, they weren’t thrilled about having to surrender a high pick to Vancouver in one of the next three drafts — the Blue Jackets determine if it’s 2016, 2017 or 2018 — especially since they were forced to pay a premium for an in-season hire.

The thinking behind that in the original spirit of the rule was that a team merited more compensation because a staff member would have to be replaced during the year. Clearly that isn’t the case with the Canucks and Tortorella, who had been doing television work along with some scouting for USA Hockey ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Many in the league feel it shouldn’t apply to coaches, general managers or presidents who have already been fired, but continue to be paid by their former team. Gary Bettman has made it clear that he feels it shouldn’t exist at all.

Years ago, the commissioner eliminated a similar rule and only brought the new one into effect on Jan. 1 because some GMs were tired of losing capable employees without receiving anything in return.

“The managers — for years — cajoled, begged, pleaded and demanded that we make a change,” Bettman said during the Stanley Cup final in June. “They wanted something straightforward and simple, although I don’t know if there was anything more straightforward and simple than what we had.”

Come the new year the league will revisit whether it’s working properly, with an eye towards clarifying, modifying or eliminating it.

That will be too late for Columbus.

Most of the other potential candidates — such as Randy Carlyle or those working as assistants elsewhere — would also have required a second-round pick to hire. The Jackets determined Tortorella was the best person to spend that asset on and brought him aboard after losing a seventh straight game on Tuesday night.

“I’m not here to reinvent the wheel,” Tortorella said hours later at his introductory news conference. “I want to get back to who we are.”

Only six teams in NHL history have ever started a season 0-7-0 and the Blue Jackets front office felt the problems went deeper than the talent on the roster. They were also concerned about what impact the losing was having on the league’s most beleaguered fanbase after taking in a franchise-record gate on opening night and then seeing home crowds of just 13,803, 13,885 and 14,295.

All of that created the need to make a change — no matter what the cost.

“None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. “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.”

Out in Vancouver, it eased the pain of a costly error from the previous regime. If the draft pick ever turns into a player it will also be proof that hopes springs eternal.

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