John Tortorella was hired as the new head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets during a turbulent time in the history of this organization. The Blue Jackets started their 2015-16 season in the worst possible way, a passionless 0-7-0 start, when expectations were sky-high after their 15-1-1 finish to the prior season, a start in which they were beaten in each of their seven losses by at least two goals, often times by more. Inevitably, former head coach Todd Richards was caught in the undertow of the putrid losses and was replaced by Tortarella, formerly head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.
Although the Blue Jackets lost their first game under Tortorella, they have gone 8-5-0 since and have outscored their opponents 37-29 during that span, a far cry from being outscored in their first 7 games, 13-34 during the 0-7-0 start. Above all, even in their losses, the Blue Jackets are playing a more straightforward, cleaner, more honest game under Tortorella. And, for a team in a severely fragile, unsure state, the Blue Jackets are playing with what Tortorella often calls “the right kind of arrogance”.
And while they’re not conjuring up images of the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens, offensively or otherwise, after Tortorella’s first few games behind the bench, when the Blue Jackets struggled to get as much as a goal or two, including those first few games, the Blue Jackets are scoring more than a goal a game more since the normally defensive-centric Tortorella became its head coach.
But the key to the recent success has been the improved commitment to defense, not just by their blueline corps, but with an overall commitment to playing both ends of the ice by the forward lines. And that commitment has paved the way for the resurgence of its franchise goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, who has awakened from the ashes of his earlier performances, this season.
Save for one rough outing against the Winnipeg Jets in which he surrendered 3 goals in the first period and was pulled in favor of Curtis McElhinney, Bobrovsky has begun to show the form of his 2012-13 Vezina Trophy award season. Bobrovsky started the season with a horrific Goals Against Average (GAA) of 5.07 and an equally horrid Save Percentage (Save%) of .835 to a GAA of just over 2 goals a game and a stellar Save% of .930.
Granted, the hole that was dug to start the season was deep and the Blue Jackets will have to, beyond the solid start under their new head coach, get on more than a few large winning streaks, but the Blue Jackets are gaining traction under John Tortorella and are by no means out of the playoff hunt.