Jack Johnson and John Tortorella have talked it out. According to a report from The Athletic, the former coach and player worked past the controversy which erupted on July 1. Hurt feelings exploded and tempers flared after potentially misinterpreted comments during new Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Johnson’s introductory press conference
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford got the ball rolling when he intimated there were concealed reasons Johnson was scratched last season and said: “it wasn’t because of how he was playing.”
Johnson dug the hole deeper when he praised the Penguins organization. His off-the-cuff remarks were seen by some less as praise for the Penguins and more as criticism of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After Johnson signed a five-year year contract, he said he chose the Penguins because he wanted “to be a part of a winning culture.”
The comments struck a nerve with the Blue Jackets organization, which has struggled to establish itself as a legitimate contender and destination for players.
Fireworks ensued. You can read John Tortorella’s original tirade asMemberships written by The Athletic here. In July, Tortorella called Rutherford a f****** magician and said Johnson’s comments were “bull****”.
Tortorella praised Rutherford’s and Johnson’s character in the interview but fiercely defended Columbus; the organization, and the market. “I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility as a coach of the team and a person living in the city,” Tortorella said. “I’m going to defend it.”
The fiery 60-year-old coach is known to champion his players but also react emotionally. He said he regretted some of his word choices but seemed comfortable with the overall sentiment. PHN recommends reading the full article from the Athletic.
Insult to Injury
The Blue Jackets are also dealing with two other players who have one foot out the door. All-star winger Artemi Panarin directly informed Columbus he would not sign a long-term contract in Columbus. Vezina winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has dragged his feet regarding a new deal, too.
Over the past two seasons, Bobrovsky helped Columbus make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history. He won the Vezina trophy in 2013 and 2017. Panarin joined the club last season and scored 82 points in 81 games (27g, 55a).
Tortorella is also dealing with the precipitous decline of Brandon Dubinsky who battled off-ice issues last season and wasn’t productive when he was on the ice.
It should be an interesting season in Columbus…