The Vancouver Canucks fired head coach John Tortorella on Thursday after he led the NHL team to their worst campaign in 15 years in his first season behind the bench.
The fiery coach, who was relieved of his duties along with assistant coach Mike Sullivan, was unable to breathe life into a Canucks team that has been in freefall since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. Tortorella was a standout forward for the University of Maine hockey team from 1978-81.
“Today we are making an important change in the direction of our team,” Canucks President Trevor Linden said in a statement.
“We have a lot of important work to accomplish this off-season as we build our management and coaching staff, improve our roster and connect with our fans.”
Since losing to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks have failed to win a playoff series, falling in the first round in 2012 and 2013 and missing out on the post-season this year.
Under Tortorella, who was in the first year of a five-year contract signed last June, the Canucks finished fifth in the seven-team Pacific Division, leaving them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The Canucks’ .506 winning percentage under Tortorella was the team’s worst since a .354 mark in the 1998-99 campaign.
Tortorella, who joined the Canucks after being fired by the New York Rangers last season, missed six games in the 2013-14 season while serving a 15-day suspension for trying to barge into an opponent’s dressing-room to confront the opposing coach.
In parts of 14 NHL seasons with the Rangers, Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning, Tortorella compiled 455-367-37-82 record. He led the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2004, the same season he was named the NHL’s top coach.