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NHL Head Coaches Rick Tocchet, John Tortorella Won’t Return Next Year

Ross Everett
by in NHL on
  • Rick Tocchet is out as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes after four seasons.
  • Columbus Blue Jackets’ head coach John Tortorella is also out as a result of ‘mutual agreement’ with team management.
  • Neither team appears to be in a hurry to hire a replacement.

The National Hockey League season isn’t officially over yet and already two coaches have lost their jobs. In Phoenix, Rick Tocchet won’t return as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes after four seasons. In Columbus, John Tortorella won’t return after he and team management ‘mutually agreed’ to part ways after six seasons.

The Coyotes missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons. They made the postseason last year though the format was drastically revised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They did manage to win a series against Nashville last year but had nothing for the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. They were in a position to make the playoffs this year heading into the final month of the season but they didn’t exactly finish strong–they lost 12 of their final 15 games.

Tocchet had this statement upon the occasion of his termination:

“It’s been an honor to coach the Coyotes the past four seasons. I have great respect and admiration for all the players I coached in Arizona, along with my coaching staff, the medical staff, the equipment managers, the PR staff and the team services staff. They are the best in the NHL, and I appreciate all their help and hard work.”

In Columbus, the Jackets finished well off the playoff pace missing the postseason for the first time since 2015-16. That was Tortorella’s first season as coach. This season, Columbus finished 18-26-12 tied with the Detroit Red Wings for last place in the Discover Central Division. The official party line is that the departure of Tortorella was by ‘mutual decision’. He released this statement announcing his departure:

“After discussion and consideration of the future direction of the team, Jarmo [Kekalainen, Blue Jackets general manager] and I have come to a mutual agreement to part ways. I’d like to thank the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for the opportunity to coach this team and live in the great Columbus area. It has been a privilege to work with the players, coaches and hockey operations staff, which is one of the best in the League. Also, I want to thank the CBJ fans and the community for the support they’ve given the team and for the work of the CBJ family in support of the community.”

Neither team appears to be in a hurry to name a replacement. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen made it sound like it could be a time consuming process:

“We’re going to make sure that we do our due diligence with all the candidates that we think are worthy of consideration and could be a good fit with us. We’re not in a hurry. We’ve got some ideas already, some people we’re going to consider, but we’re going to take our time. I don’t think we’ll be able to wait until (NHL) free agency to get a new coach. That decision will come sooner.”

Arizona GM Bill Armstrong didn’t elaborate on his team’s plans for their next coach.

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