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Hockey John Tortorella looking to bring ‘confidence’ back to Blue Jackets

John Tortorella, who won a Stanley Cup in 2004 coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning, signed a contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets through the end of the 2017-18 season.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

He once called NHL coaching "one of the greatest jobs you can have – and one of the lousiest" – and against long odds, John Tortorella is back to do it again.

Tortorella, one of the most polarizing coaches of his generation, was appointed Wednesday as the Columbus Blue Jackets' new bench boss, replacing Todd Richards.

Richards was fired after Columbus, a team expected to challenge for a playoff spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference, lost its first seven games of the season, including a lacklustre 4-0 defeat to the New York Rangers on Monday.

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Tortorella most recently coached the Vancouver Canucks, lasting just a single season before being fired and replaced by Willie Desjardins, an epic fail in what had otherwise been a successful NHL coaching career.

Blue Jackets president John Davidson had a prior relationship with Tortorella – both worked extensively for, and have strong ties to, the Rangers organization.

"The situation in New York, I spent five years there and those people treated me very well," Tortorella explained on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "I wish I could have finished up the job there. I thought we went through a good process there, developing the team. My boss, Glen [Sather], decided he wanted to go in a different direction, and that's all part of the business, as far as coaches are concerned.

"You pick up, you move on and you hope to get another opportunity. I was fortunate enough in Vancouver to get that."

Tortorella's time with the Canucks saw them fall from third to 12th place overall in the Western Conference standings and miss the playoffs for the first time in five years. There were four years remaining on Tortorella's contract when he was fired.

He promised he has learned from the past and said of his time in Vancouver: "It started off very well there. That second half, I did not do a good enough job of trying to find ways to scratch out some wins when we had our injuries. Quite honestly, I should have been fired.

"But you need to have some thick skin in our business … You learn, you move on, you keep your convictions, but you also sprinkle in some things you may have to improve on – and maybe eliminate some of the things you're doing. That's how I always go about these things."

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Tortorella, who won a Stanley Cup in 2004 coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning, signed a contract with Columbus that will carry him through the end of the 2017-18 season. He will make his Blue Jackets debut on Thursday in Minnesota against the Wild.

The Jackets currently have the worst defensive record in the NHL, having surrendered 34 goals in seven games. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, a former Vezina Trophy-winner, spoke publicly of his lost confidence recently – he currently has the worst goals-against average in the NHL.

Tortorella hadn't spoken to Bobrovsky one on one as of midday Wednesday, but said: "I read the same comments and I think that's going through the team, as far as lack of confidence. These guys care – and when it's not going well, they feel like they're letting people down. They feel like they let Richie [Todd Richards] down. They liked him.

"Confidence is an easy word to say, but it's a pretty difficult thing to gain back. [Bobrovsky] has a good game, a good period, it's going to come back to him. We just need to play better around him and, hopefully, he'll feel his way back into it, and have a couple of good games."

Presumably, the same could be said of Tortorella. He'll need to feel his way back in and find a way to do what he couldn't in Vancouver, which is to say, win some games.

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