COLUMBUS, OHIO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have relieved Todd Richards of his head coaching duties and named John Tortorella as the club’s new head coach, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.
Tortorella, who signed a three-year contract through the 2017-18 season, will make his Blue Jackets debut on Thursday when Columbus visits the Minnesota Wild.
Tortorella, Kekalainen and Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson will meet with the media today at 12:45 p.m. in the press conference room, located in the dressing room hallway at Nationwide Arena.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE STREAMED LIVE AT BLUEJACKETS.COM.
“After much deliberation and discussion, we have made the very difficult decision late last night to remove Todd Richards as our head coach and we’ve reached an agreement with John Tortorella to join the Columbus Blue Jackets in that capacity,” said General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
“None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility. There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we’ve set for this season.”
Tortorella, 57, has compiled a 446-375-115 record (.538) in 936 games during his NHL coaching career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. His teams have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs eight times and he led the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship and the Rangers to the 2012 Eastern Conference Final.
The Boston native ranks first among U.S.-born coaches in all-time NHL wins (446) and was recently named the head coach of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. In March 2013, he became the 30th coach in NHL history to record 400 wins and the following January became the 27th coach in league history to reach 900 games.
“John Tortorella is an experienced National Hockey League coach with a proven track record of success,” said Kekalainen. “He is a Stanley Cup winner and we believe the right person to lead our team at this time.”
Tortorella began his NHL coaching career with Tampa Bay and compiled a 239-222-74 record in 535 games during six-plus seasons with the club from 2001-08. He led the Lightning to the Southeast Division title in 2002-03 and 2003-04. In the latter campaign, he won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year as the club went 46-22-14 (106 points) and won the Stanley Cup.
PHOTOS: JOHN TORTORELLA THROUGH THE YEARS
He joined the Rangers in February 2009 and posted a 171-118-30 record in 319 games with the club, including a four-game stint as interim coach during the 1999-00 season. He led New York to the playoffs on four occasions and ranks fourth on the club’s all-time wins list and is fifth in games coached. In 2011-12, he guided the Rangers to the third-best regular season in franchise history with a 51-24-7 mark (109 points) and a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. He joined the Canucks prior to the 2013-14 campaign and guided the club to a 36-35-11 mark.
Internationally, Tortorella was an assistant coach with Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Games and helped the club capture a silver medal. He also served as the squad’s head coach at the 2008 World Championships and was an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2005 World Championships. He began his coaching career in 1986-87 with the Virginia Lancers of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, leading the club to a championship and winning Coach of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons in 1986-87 and 1987-88. He returned to coaching with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans from 1995-97 and won the 1996 Calder Cup championship in his first season. He went on to serve as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes and Rangers.
Richards, 49, guided the Blue Jackets to a 127-112-21 record in 260 games since being named the club’s interim head coach on Jan. 9, 2012, including a 0-7-0 record this season. He led the team to back-to-back 40-win campaigns in 2013-14 and 2014-15, three consecutive winning seasons from 2012-15, a berth in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and is the winningest coach in franchise history.
Richards joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant coach prior to the 2010-11 season and replaced Scott Arniel behind the bench midway through that campaign. Last season, he led Columbus to a 42-35-5 record, including a 36-20-3 mark from December 1 through the end of the regular season. He surpassed Ken Hitchcock for the most wins in club history with his 126th victory, 4-2, vs. Buffalo on April 10.
In 2013-14, he led Columbus to a 43-32-7 record, setting franchise marks for wins and points (93) in a season as the Blue Jackets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in club history. In 2012-13, he led the Blue Jackets to a 24-17-7 record as the club finished tied for eighth in the Western Conference with 55 points. The .573 winning percentage that season is the highest in franchise history. In 423 games as a head coach in the National Hockey League, Richards has compiled a 204-183-37 record with the Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.
“On behalf of our organization, I want to thank Todd for his many contributions both on and off the ice to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the past four-plus years,” said club President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. “He took over under very difficult circumstances and did a terrific job guiding our team to heights it had not before reached. I have great respect for Todd as a coach and a person and wish nothing but the best for him, his wife, Maryann, and their wonderful family.”
The Blue Jackets return to action on Thursday when they visit the Minnesota Wild. Game time from Xcel Energy Center is 8 p.m. ET. Live coverage on FOX Sports Ohio begins with the Blue Jackets Live pre-game show at 7:30 p.m. The game will also be broadcast live on the Scioto Downs Blue Jackets Radio Network, including flagship station Sports Radio 97.1 The Fan, and online at BlueJackets.com.