If you looked at what transpired in Columbus this season, you’d expect players to celebrate John Tortorella stepping away. It started with the benching and then public spat with Pierre-Luc Dubois. Things were no better with Patrik Laine, who was benched several times as well after the trade.
Seriously, you would think they’d be throwing a parade to celebrate the end of his tyrannical reign. You couldn’t be more wrong.
John Tortorella: Thank you Torts!
The Columbus Blue Jackets posted a We Salute You, Torts! tribute video that set off a wave of sentiment from fans and players alike. Whether it was from current or former players, the admiration and appreciation was put on full public display.
Nick Foligno wrote, “Thanks Torts!” and added a goat emoji which signifies a play on the word GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Seth Jones and Zach Werenski simply posted the goat emoji to recognize their old coach. Cam Atkinson also said, “Thank you Torts!!!”
Behind all the bluster, John Tortorella doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t treat his superstar better than his 13th forward. He’s the easiest coach to play for. He lays out what he wants, and expects a 100% effort. If you don’t do it, you sit.
Is he cantankerous with the media? Yes! Sometimes reporters ask silly questions. I get it, but it leads to bad press. He’s also very calculated as he draws attention to himself and deflects criticism from his players. For every Sean Avery that despises him, there are dozens of players that respect him.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to his players after a long and hard season.
What Blue Jackets players had to say about Torts on exit day
Max Domi had a difficult year, and found himself on the wrong side of the bench in plenty of games. You would think when asked he’d deflect the question. Instead, he went on about how Tortorella is a “great human being,” and how he was disappointed he didn’t get to show him his best this season.
Even Patrick Laine, who chuckled a little about finding out that no matter who you are, or how much money you make, you will be benched. When asked if he would do better under a different coach Laine responded, “it’s not the system’s fault, it’s mine. It doesn’t matter who is behind the bench – I need to play better.”
Other players like Elvis Merzlikins, who made some controversial comments about being embarrassed with losing lamented Torts’ leaving. “Great coach. Great person,” he said. “I’m sad that I’m not going to have an opportunity to work with him. He taught me a lot. He was the guy who settled me down and gave me a chance to understand the league.”
“Personally, I love Torts,” Zach Werenski said with a huge smile. “Me and Torts went through it. My first year, came in and it was smooth sailing. Second and third year I was struggling defensively. He was hard me – pushed me to be better. Going through that process with him – seeing what he means to the room, to the city, to the organization – I’m honored to have played for him.”
Sometimes perception just isn’t reality.
You can watch all the exit interviews here.