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Blue Jackets' GM Kekalainen hoping Tortorella can wake up winless team

Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen felt his team needed a kick in the rear end after an 0-7 start - and he's turned to veteran head coach John Tortorella to provide it.

Late Tuesday night, after a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders, Kekalainen made what he called a difficult decision to fire Todd Richards in favor of Tortorella, who will take over the coaching duties effective immediately.

"The team was not responding the right way, the play wasn't going in the right direction," Kekalainen said at a press conference Wednesday. "We did what we thought was needed, and by no means does this let anyone off the hook, including management and the players. We're all in this together."

Tortorella, who reportedly agreed to take the job at 1:30 a.m. ET, said it was a crazy night, and that he's going to take the next few days to get a better understanding of the roster and the organization.

"It’s important that I listen (to everyone). We need to do this collectively and chip away," Tortorella said.

"It's a team that's there," he added, after pointing to the fact the Blue Jackets are one of the youngest teams in the league. "It’s really exciting to be part of this."

In terms of style, Tortorella said he wants the team to return to the style that made it successful two seasons ago: straight ahead, quick and hard.

Tortorella takes over a club well behind the eight-ball in terms of its place in the NHL standings, with zero points and a league-high 34 goals allowed to date. In terms of his approach, he's looking to take things one step at a time.

"I am not even anywhere close to looking at a goal. I'm looking forward to our ten o'clock meeting tomorrow," Tortorella said. "I don't think we can look at it and say 'we're 0-7, look at the hill we have to climb, where we need to get to.'

"I think we need to take this day-by-day, meeting-by-meeting, practice-by practice, and as quickly as it's gone south a little bit, you can get that quickly back and get the ball rolling the other way. It's about being the best you can be."

Tortorella pointed to a bevy of leaders in the room who have the wherewithal to turn things around, adding the first player he met with was Brandon Dubinsky, who said his relationship with Tortorella fell apart when they were both with the New York Rangers back in 2011-12.

The coach and his new team will now prepare for a flight to Minnesota, where Tortorella will have his first chance at guiding Columbus into the win column on Thursday when they take on the Wild.

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