Columbus Due to Turn It Around
The Columbus Blue Jackets won a game on Saturday, not something that would exactly torch the wires of the national news, but for one thing. After an 0-8-0 start, the Blue Jackets were on their way to having the worst start in NHL history. It was the worst since the New York Rangers lost their first 11 games in 1943-44. Now, with a new coach, one wonders if the Jackets can right the ship enough to at least re-gain some respectability in the National Hockey League.
On Thursday, the Blue Jackets did what most teams do after horrendous season openers; they fired the head coach. Todd Richards, who had led the team to the playoffs in 2013-14, and nearly again last year, was relieved of his duties. Enter John Tortorella, who grabbed attention by leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, and since has had up-and-down seasons with the Rangers and Vancouver. He went to work, sending a message to star center Ryan Johansen by benching him for the last six minutes of the Jackets’ 3-2 loss at Minnesota.
Now, with a win under his belt, Tortorella is left with the daunting task of getting the team back on its skates in the midst of a schedule that has the Jackets playing six of their next eight games on the road. They have the talent, with Johansen, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky on board. And Brandon Saad was traded in from Chicago to give the Jackets the punch they needed. But Saad has just three goals, and Johansen, five total points, and they’re the team leaders. Wennberg is just back on the ice after a concussion kept him out.
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best keeper two years ago, should also be better than his 4.72 goals-against average reflects. The defense in front of Bobrovsky was never expected to be a bonus, but never thought to be this bad.
Tortarella, who has a somewhat abrasive demeanor, may be just the thing the Jackets need.
Will they make the playoffs? Not likely, with the hole they have dug for themselves. But look for the Blue Jackets to make a run sometime in November and be a pest for contenders for much of the season.
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