Blue Jackets, John Tortorella mutually agree to part ways

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen talked about the team's search for a new head coach as John Tortorella exits the organization, saying they are willing to wait until the season has ended and they can evaluate their options.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and head coach John Tortorella have mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced Sunday.

Tortorella's contract expires this summer. The Blue Jackets concluded their season Saturday after a 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings. The team finished last in the Central Division with a 18-26-12 record and will miss the playoffs for just the second time in Tortorella's six seasons.

The 62-year-old Tortorella will have a number of opportunities if he decides to return to an NHL bench next season with Vancouver, Montreal, Detroit and Buffalo among the teams without head coaches signed for next season. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports that the two-time Jack Adams winner isn't planning on retiring.

Tortorella was hired by Columbus early in the 2015-16 season but it was in his second season where the success began. In 2016-17 he led the Blue Jackets to their best campaign in franchise history with 50 wins and 108 points. That season kicked off a stretch of four consecutive playoff appearances highlighted by a stunning upset sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19. Tortorella will leave Columbus as the winningest coach in franchise history, posting a 227-166-54 regular-season record and a 13-18 record in the playoffs.

However, that past success could not be replicated this season. On top of the pandemic-induced difficulties, the Blue Jackets struggled to score goals this season -- tied with the Buffalo Sabres for 29th at 2.39 goals per game. Injuries to key contributors including Zach Werenski and Boone Jenner, plus trade deadline moves that saw Nick Foligno and David Savard move out, saw the Blue Jackets only win four of their final 19 games.

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