John Tortorella, above all else, is not afraid to criticize himself.
Such was the case in an interview posted on the Columbus Blue Jackets Twitter feed, where he gave a blunt assessment of the way he handled all-star forward Brandon Saad.
“I screwed up with Saader,” said Tortorella. “I came here, I screwed up with him and I think I held him back in where he wasn’t killing penalties. You know what he is as a player – two-time Stanley Cup-winner – but I still think he has a lot to learn about the game, and I lost him.
“When he spends two minutes on the bench and he doesn’t kill a penalty, and I don’t come back with him another shift after that because I’m trying to get my lines back together, there he is sitting on the bench for probably three minutes. It may not seem like a lot, but for a player that’s an eternity.”
Tortorella coached his first game with the Blue Jackets on Oct. 22, after being hired to replace Todd Richards.
Saad had 12 points in his first 20 games under Tortorella, before totalling 19 points in his next 23 games en route to being the Blue Jackets’ lone representative in Nashville.
“I didn’t have a good understanding of how much of a flow he needed in his game, and it took me a couple of weeks to really see that I hurt him,” said Tortorella. “And now I’ve got him in more of a flow – and I’m not taking credit for how well he’s played – but I know it’s helped him that he’s on the ice more and he hasn’t missed three shifts in a row.
“That really affected him.”