Report: John Tortorella informs Blue Jackets he won’t return next season

Max Domi scored in the final minute of overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Detroit Red Wings 5-4.

John Tortorella has informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he will not be returning to the team next season, Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports, ending the most successful stretch in franchise history.

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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