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Blue Jackets aware of Tortorella's demanding style

by Craig Merz / Columbus Blue Jackets


COLUMBUS -- Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky knows newly named coach John Tortorella very well from their days with the New York Rangers.

Though each admits their coach-player relationship was acrimonious in spots from 2008-12, they also agree times have changed.

"You have your ups and downs in relationships in sports and life," Dubinsky said. "Although those types of things happened a little bit, at the end of the day he made me a better hockey player without a doubt. He helped me immensely."

Tortorella replaces Todd Richards, who was fired Wednesday with the Blue Jackets (0-7-0) off to one of the worst starts in NHL history.

The first player Tortorella met in Nationwide Arena on Wednesday morning was Dubinsky, an alternate captain who has been with the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2012-13 season.

"I need to lean on him," Tortorella said. "He's part of that heartbeat of the club. He needs to be a conduit between the players and the coaching staff until I get to know the other guys.

"I had him at a different stage in our career. We went through the process, him and I, some good things, some bad things."

Dubinsky said Tortorella's style, which is sometimes abrasive, gets results and will help the struggling Blue Jackets.

"I came [to Columbus] guns blazing and fired up, and a lot of it I owe to the way he coached me," Dubinsky said. "He got things out of me I didn't know I had. He's helped my career and I anticipate he's going to help my career and help a lot of guys here, especially with the amount of young guys we have here.

"He's good at pulling things out of players. That's one of his strengths. He's going to drag everyone into the fire and get the most out of every guy. We all need that and we're anxious to get going."

Richards was known as a players' coach who in public rarely displayed emotion or fire. That was fine when the Blue Jackets were winning and he was seen as a calming influence, especially last season when he navigated a team-record 508 man-games lost but led the Blue Jackets to a 15-1-1 finish in their 42-35-5 season.

Even though Columbus did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the expectations were high this season. But the descent was rapid, with none of the seven losses being closer than two goals.

"We feel responsible," captain Nick Foligno said. "It's part of the business but a terrible part of the business. We have to look forward and try to fix it.

"You look at our record and you knew something would happen if we kept going down this road and we kept going down this road. We cost [Richards] his job. The facts are the facts."

Right wing Jared Boll has seen the coaching carousel before as the longest-tenured Blue Jackets player. Tortorella will be his fifth coach since Boll joined Columbus in 2007.

"It seems like it gets harder each time," Boll said. "I feel bad for [Richards]. He was a good coach, a great person. He really cared about his players. That's why it's so hard to go through this again.

"The coach usually takes the fall. That's not the right thing, but that's what happens. We have to come out and give a better effort."

Defenseman Ryan Murray knows of Tortorella's reputation for riding players but said that's what's needed.

"Now it's a big reality check hitting all of us in the room," he said. "I've heard he's an intense guy. That's what we all expected. He's going to push us as individuals and as players.

"That's a good thing. This change, although it's unfortunate to let [Richards] go, is good. All we want to do is to get better. [Richards] wanted that too and now it's fallen on our shoulders."

Dubinsky said his teammates better be ready for a different demeanor in the dressing room under Tortorella.

"He holds guys accountable," he said. "I'm sure you'll see me on the bench at some point this year. He's not afraid to do those types of things. It's for the greater good. Maybe it's the kick in the butt we need."

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