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Digging into the nomination: John Tortorella

Analyzing the impact of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella this season

by Allie Dosmann /

The Blue Jackets didn't just make franchise history this season. They blew the cover off the record books. The Jackets broke the team record for points (108), wins (50), home wins (28) and road points (51). They also had the second-longest winning streak in NHL history (16).

These achievements are not just amazing in their own right, but they are remarkable when compared to the 2015-16 season, when the team finished fourth to last in the league.

It's interesting because the Blue Jackets didn't make major moves in the off season. It's as if rather the pieces of the puzzle finally fit into place.

For that, the players credit head coach John Tortorella.

"He took a team that was bottom of the league last year to a team that was fighting for the Presidents' Trophy up until about the last week of the season," Brandon Dubinsky said. "He's a great coach. He's a great motivator. He's got the ability to get the best or close to the best out of every one of his players."

This ability to motivate his players is clear through not only the team records, but also the players' individual accolades. Cam Atkinson had a career-high 35 goals this season and received his first All-Star nod. Seth Jones added a career-best 42 points and received a trip with the All-Stars as well. Sam Gagner contributed 50 points - also a career record. Alexander Wennberg. Sergei Bobrovsky. Zach Werenski. The list of players who achieved remarkable feats on the stat sheet this season seems to go on and on.

"He's a big reason why this thing has turned around," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "Give him a lot of credit, the way he challenged all of us individually and as a team to get better, to change the status quo here, it wasn't easy to do."

Foligno is another prime example of the Tortorella effect. In 2015-16, his first season as captain, he struggled on the ice, only scoring 12 goals. This year, he netted 26, second on the team. He's also nominated for the Mark Messier Leadership Award for his impact on and off the ice.


"He's made me a better player, better captain, better person," Foligno said. "He just challenges you, which is what you need as a professional athlete. Sometimes it's not easy to do yourself, and you need someone there to do that. He's done an outstanding job of that, especially with a young group."

The consistency he maintained with this young group of players is specifically impressive. A 16-game winning streak is not something that's easy to do with a team that spent a large portion of the season as the youngest team in the league. But John Tortorella knew the right way to continually challenge his group.

"That's what I like about Torts. Nothing is ever good enough, but he's there to prop you up when you need it. He'd be the first one to say how proud he is of this group, but there's work to do," Foligno said. "We all feel that way and he's made us all buy into that feeling. I 've really enjoyed my relationship with him."

While Tortorella was the coach during the majority of the 2015-16 season as well that doesn't diminish his role during this campaign. This season was his first year where he could actually develop his players during training camp, put together his own roster and get the players on board with his ideology.

Video: Tortorella on his first training camp with Columbus

The Blue Jackets head coach is one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award for the coach who contributed most to his team's success. The other finalists drove their teams to impressive bounce back seasons as well.

Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto finished with 40 wins and 95 points to grab the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern conference after finishing last in the standings a year ago. The Maple Leafs are the only team to make the playoffs after finishing in the bottom of the standings in the last 10 years. Toronto is a team comparably young to the Jackets. They had six rookies appear in at least 70 games for the first time in league history.

Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers

Todd McLellan led the Oilers to 47 wins and 103 points for their first playoff appearance in 10 years, and the team's first 100-point season in 30 years. Edmonton led the league with a 33-point improvement over the prior season. They also closed the season with a nine-game home winning streak, a franchise record. The argument against McLellan is that Edmonton also had Hart Trophy favorite Connor McDavid headlining their roster, so it's more difficult to decide where the success should be attributed.

Regardless of the results, the important thing is that the team has bought into Tortorella's methods and are ready to keep improving, which is a good sign for things to come.

"I think where we're standing now, we're all very proud we did it and proud to have him at the helm," Foligno said.

And they don't just believe in the messages Tortorella is sharing, but they also respect him and his impact on the team.

"I think he should be (honored) without a doubt," Dubinsky said. "Just the ability he has to get guys to another level makes him a great coach. If that's not coach of the year worthy, I'm not sure what is."

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