Former University of Minnesota defenseman Todd Richards was relieved of his coaching duties today by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. He was replaced by John Tortorella, who last coached in the league in 2013-14 with the Vancouver Canucks, and who was serving as a studio commentator with the NHL Network.
Richards, 49, compiled a 127-112-21 record in 260 games with the Bluejackets, according to the team’s website. His 127 wins rank first in club annals, and he also guided Columbus to a pair of 40-win campaigns and two Stanley Cup Playoff berths, including the first two playoff victories in team history, after taking over as head coach during the 2011-12 season. The Bluejackets began the 2015-16 season with seven consecutive losses after missing the postseason last year.
Richards, who spent the bulk of his professional playing career in the International Hockey League, played four seasons at Minnesota from 1985 to 1989, excluding a stint with the U.S. National Team in 1987-88, according to hockeydb.com. His best scoring season came as a sophomore when he tallied eight goals and 43 assists for 51 points in 49 outings with the Golden Gophers, and he finished his college career with 30-120—150 points and 194 penalty minutes in 173 appearances. He also recorded four assists in eight NHL regular-season games with the Hartford Whalers.
Beginning in 2002-03, Richards went on to serve as an assistant coach with Milwaukee (AHL), head coach with Wilkes-Barre Scranton (AHL), assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, and then head coach with the Minnesota Wild for two years. He was an assistant with Columbus the year before he took the reins there as head coach.
A former three-year skater at the University of Maine, Tortorella, 57, coached the Tampa Bay Lightning for six years and the New York Rangers for five seasons prior to his time in Vancouver. He also led Tampa Bay to its first Stanley Cup title in 2004, and is slated to serve as head coach of the U.S. entry in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.