(Reuters) - The winless Columbus Blue Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards after a dismal start to the National Hockey League season and replaced him with veteran coach John Tortorella, the team said on Wednesday.
Tortorella, whose last coaching assignment in the NHL ended with the Vancouver Canucks after the 2013-14 season, has signed a three-year contract with Columbus through the 2017-18 season.
The 57-year-old, who has also coached the Tampa Bay Lightning (2001–08) and New York Rangers (2009–13), will make his debut for the 0-7 Blue Jackets on Thursday when they visit the Minnesota Wild.
"After much deliberation and discussion, we have made the very difficult decision late last night to remove Todd Richards as our head coach," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement.
"None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility.
"There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we've set for this season."
Tortorella, an outspoken coach who has been fined several times by the NHL for his often brusque style with the media, has compiled a 446-375-115 record in 936 games during his NHL coaching career.
His teams made the Stanley Cup playoffs eight times and in 2004 he led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup championship and was named coach of the year.
Richards, 49, was 127-112-21 with the Blue Jackets after taking charge midway through the 2011-12 season. He has a career coaching record of 204-183-37 with the Minnesota Wild and the Blue Jackets.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)