Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is well-known for his unapologetic attitude, but this time he's showing support for first-year Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe after his squad fell in the qualifying round to the Blue Jackets.
"I just can't get over people ripping Sheldon Keefe and his staff as far as the job he's done with that Maple Leafs team," Tortorella said, according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline. "They have done a terrific job with that team."
"Some of the things I read, some of the things I watched last night ... it just pisses me off for a fellow coach in the league, and I know it's Toronto, a great city, great hockey town, love being here," he added. "But some of the things he's criticized for are beyond belief, and it just shows that people have no clue what's going on in this game. I just want to support him."
After shutting out Toronto on Sunday in the decisive Game 5, many fans and critics began pointing fingers at Keefe and the coaching staff for the loss. The Leafs have now failed to advance past the first round of the postseason since 2004.
The two coaches have a history together before the series. The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted a 19-year-old Keefe in 1999, right as Tortorella came in as head coach for the 2000-01 season. Keefe spent time between the NHL and AHL while playing for Tortorella, totaling 125 NHL games.
Keefe, who took over as head coach of the team in November, recorded a 27-15-5 record before the season's pause on March 12.
Columbus will now take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, the Jackets shocked the hockey world by sweeping the No. 1 ranked Lightning in the opening round.