Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella will be back in the spotlight soon, if he ever left it that is. After failing to win a single game at the World Cup of Hockey, Tortorella faces an even bigger challenge, turning the Blue Jackets into a winning team. If Tortorella completes this task perhaps the media and disgruntled American fans will get off his back. But this task won’t be easy. The Blue Jackets finished 15th in the Eastern Conference last year with a record of 34-40-8. As a result Jacket’s fans also saw the departure of star forward Ryan Johansen and the arrival of defenseman Seth Jones from the Nashville Predators late in the season.
This was a positive moved that signaled to fans and media that a rebuild was in motion for the team. The challenge for Tortorella will be dealing with the inexperience of many of these players. 29 year old Jack Johnson is the oldest defenseman on the roster at present and will likely be paired with 22 year old Seth Jones for most of the season. These guys will be leaned on heavily when it comes to powerplays and killing penalties. Guys like David Savard and Ryan Murray will be eager to prove their worth to the team this year. Murray tallied four goals and 21 assists for the Blue Jackets last season and will easily match that again this year. However, it is going to be difficult for Tortorella to match these kids up against guys like Chris Letang or Erik Karlsson.
Room for Improvement:
Tortorella will have to use some of his “tough love” to get the most out of his forwards this season. There are several players that need to have far better years than previously. David Clarkson leads the charge in this regard. He’s coming off another injury riddled season, with just four points in 23 games last season. Forward Gregory Campbell will also look to bounce back, having tallied just 11 points in 82 games last year. Nick Foligno will be hoping to break into the top five players list within the team this year and improve on his 12 goals and 25 assists this year as well.
One area that Tortorella won’t have to worry about this season is goaltending. Starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is had an incredibly positive World Cup of Hockey. He ended the tournament with a record of 4-2-2, facing 143 shots and saving 133 of them. Add to that a save percentage of .908% from last season and it’s easy to see that Bobrovsky is the real deal and will only improve moving forward.
So right now, John Tortorella may be at rock bottom, but if there’s anyone in the NHL that loves an uphill battle, it’s this guy. The media and fans better be ready for another roller coaster ride with Tortorella at the helm this season.