John Tortorella knew filling the void left by Craig Hartsburg’s retirement would not be easy.
Coaching defense in the NHL is a vital role, and it’s one that can shape the future of a franchise. The Blue Jackets find themselves in such a scenario, boasting a strong and promising group of young defensemen with another wave on the horizon.
Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, David Savard and Dalton Prout are NHL regulars and all under the age of 26. Zach Werenski just completed his first season of professional hockey after a decorated two-year career at the University of Michigan, and all he did was win the Calder Cup championship with the Lake Erie Monsters at age 18.
Tortorella was willing to be patient and wait for the right coach to come available. He and Blue Jackets management interviewed several candidates in what he called a “thorough” process, looking for a person with a blend of experience and intelligence that could lead this group of defensemen into an exciting new chapter.
In Brad Shaw, Tortorella strongly believes he’s found his man.
“This was my guy, my No. 1 choice,” Tortorella told BlueJackets.com. “I wanted Brad Shaw on my coaching staff and I couldn’t be happier that he’s agreed to come work with us.”
And, in an ironic twist, Tortorella can say he “finally” hired Shaw.
Before Shaw joined the St. Louis Blues in 2006, he interviewed with Tortorella, who was then coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning. For budget reasons, the job never materialized but the two stayed in touch over the years, leading to the here and now in 2016. Shaw said there was a strong degree of familiarity when the Blue Jackets reached out.
Yes, Shaw has ties to both John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen, who were with the Blues during his decade behind the St. Louis bench, but this was mostly about Tortorella. Shaw felt he would be a good fit in Columbus and given the situation the team is in (needing someone to lead their defense and penalty killing units), it only reaffirmed his gut feeling.
Two weeks ago, Shaw flew into Columbus to meet with Tortorella and the two spent four hours together. They talked philosophies, needs, fit, and Shaw had a good sense this was the direction in which he wanted to go.
“He’s a great fit,” Tortorella said of Shaw. “He’s so experienced, and with our group of young defensemen, he’s exactly what we need. We felt it was important to have someone who can bring what he does, and that’s in all facets of the game.
“We’re really looking forward to getting him in here and getting to work with our group.”