Report: ESPN hires fiery John Tortorella as studio analyst; instant ratings gold

john tortorella on tv
Aug 11, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures as he speaks to his players in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Tampa Bay LIghtning at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing drums up ratings like a little controversy. A report has surfaced indicating ESPN is set to hire John Tortorella as a studio analyst for next season’s coverage.

John Tortorella on TV could be ratings gold

Make no mistake about it, John Tortorella would rather be behind the bench. That was the case in 2008, after he was let go by the Lightning, he landed a gig as an analyst for TSN.

john tortorella ESPN
Dec 2, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on from behind the bench against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Capital One Arena. The Capitals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, but the people at TSN have been fantastic,” Tortorella told NHL.com back in 2008. “I’m having fun with it, but eventually if I get an opportunity – and there are a lot of good coaches out there, so I hope I do get an opportunity – I’d want to get right back in it.”

Torts’ most memorable rant was on Rangers agitator Sean Avery. “He’s a selfish [expletive] that’s what he is,” he said on TSN. “It’s gotten so bad here, he’s embarrassed himself, the organization. More importantly he’s embarrassed his teammates who have to kind of look out for him here now. But it’s the NHL, he’s embarrassed the whole league. Send him home.”

By the way, when Tortorella left TV to coach again, where did he land? You guessed it, the New York Rangers and Sean Avery.

Oddly enough, Avery bolted for free agency to the Dallas Stars but then was reacquired and played under Torts for a few seasons. A love/hate relationship for sure.

Torts wants back in the game

Obviously, with all the key head coaching jobs gone Torts is just biding his time. The first in-season coach firing could see the 63 year-old leave ESPN.

Torts is 12th all-time on the NHL’s win list. His best record for a team came when he coached the Rangers from 2008 to 2012. He amassed a record of 171-118-1-29 for a .583 winning percentage. There’s was very little buzz around his name this offseason. His agent, Neil Glasberg revealed to me that Tortorella may be interested in a management position.

Pierre LeBrun also noted that Torts is still very interested in coaching but no one has picked up the phone to call him. “As far as I can tell from checking with a few sources, the phone hasn’t rung yet,” he explains. “Some teams I know worry about his tough-love approach at times (Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois), but he’s also the same coach who led the Jackets to series wins over Tampa Bay and Toronto the last two years.”

That fear will go right out the window if a contender struggles out of the gate. Then their inhibitions will turn into ambition to bring Tortorella in to fix a mess.