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Tortorella's 500th win special for entire team

Nick Foligno: "It's really gratifying to see him get that"

by Rob Mixer @RobMixer /

John Tortorella didn't want to make much of his impending milestone.

And while he didn't, players made sure to celebrate the occasion with him.

After Seth Jones scored the overtime winner at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon, assistant coach Brad Shaw reminded the guys on the ice to get the puck. That puck, which found its way into the hands of captain Nick Foligno, was presented to Tortorella in the locker room after he addressed the team.

Tortorella became the first American-born coach in NHL history to win 500 games. That's nothing short of significant.

"We're so happy for him," Foligno said. "He's gone through a roller coaster of a's really gratifying for all the guys to see him get that."

Even better was it happening in Vancouver, where Tortorella spent the 2013-14 season behind the bench. It didn't work out for either party with the Canucks, but there are no hard feelings from Tortorella, who thoroughly enjoyed his time there and made several good friends along the way.

"We got him the puck and he's excited," said Brandon Saad. "But right now, he's more excited about the way our team's playing."

The road led him to this opportunity with the Blue Jackets last October, taking over a team that had lost its way and needed someone to get them back on track. Tortorella felt he was the guy who could make that happen, and the belief was shared by Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson.

While this may seem a lighter version of Torts, it's really just another example of a man who is incredibly self-aware and willing to adjust his approach in order to accommodate an ever-evolving game and its players. It's exactly what he's done so far in Columbus, and early on, the results have been positive.

"I'll readily admit that as I have gone through a little bit of a grind here the last few years and trying to get consistent with a team, I am trying to enjoy it more," Tortorella said. "I am on the back nine. That's just the way it is. I know it's not going to be forever, so I do want to try to enjoy it.

"I don't think it's an individual thing, wins and losses. It's a team thing. I've been so privileged to have the opportunity to coach as many games as I've had, and to get this opportunity here with this club, that's what I'm so grateful for."

Video: Torts' reaction to his 500th NHL win

With the Blue Jackets out to the best start in team history (20-5-4 with Sunday's win), much of the conversation has been about goaltending, special teams and the club's ability to take control of a game in the third period.

But what the players will tell you is that their coach has played a key role, as well.

"The biggest thing I appreciate is that he's really understanding of people," Foligno said. "As hard as he is on you, he cares so much about your family and what goes on behind the scenes."

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