John Torchetti joked Thursday night that he’s leaving the State of Hockey to come to Hockeytown.
The former Wild interim coach turned down a contract offer to return to being the Iowa head coach, instead opting for a two-year deal to be one of Jeff Blashill’s two assistants with the Detroit Red Wings.
“I just felt I wanted to get back in the NHL again after seeing how everything went there and working with the kids again, the guys that I had and just that level of intensity and commitment every night,” Torchetti said in his first public comments since the Wild hired Bruce Boudreau over him.
“I just wanted to work with that athlete again. I told [Wild GM Chuck Fletcher], ‘I think I proved to you I can coach.’”
Torchetti guided the Wild to a 15-11-1 record and second wildcard spot after replacing Mike Yeo in February with the team out of a playoff position. But with pressure to hire an experienced coach, Fletcher jumped at the chance to hire Boudreau, who has coached Washington and Anaheim to a combined eight division titles.
Fletcher has said if Boudreau wasn’t available, he likely would have hired Torchetti.
“I was really disappointed. I just thought it was better left unsaid than to say anything,” Torchetti, a three-time interim head coach in the NHL, explained as to why he had been silent the past month.
“Don’t forget, it’s something that you’re striving for your entire career. I thought I finally did a good enough job considering the situation, but the situation was beyond me after that. Then it’s up to other people.”
Torchetti said he has no hard feelings toward Fletcher or assistant GM Brent Flahr, who doubles as Iowa’s GM.
“Chuck and myself and Flahrsy, we were good friends before it, during it, after it and after it again. They’re my friends. One of the reasons I went up there was because they’re my friends.
“We all know what loyalty means. We’ll be friends forever.”
Torchetti, laughing, then added, “Now, if you asked me that four weeks ago, it might have been a little different. That’s just the business. I’ve been working with these guys for the last five years and I might be working with these guys later on.”
Torchetti, a hard-nosed coach, did have some run-ins with players, especially defenseman Ryan Suter between Games 4 and 5 after Suter felt Torchetti called him out publicly for not blocking a shot before a goal against.
“No comment,” Torchetti said. “What I do as coach and what players do as players are left in the locker room. Nothing else is said about that stuff.”
He said he was especially proud of the way Mikael Granlund played down the stretch.
“One thing that offended me when I got there, everybody saying Granlund was a bust,” Torchetti said. “This kid is a great hockey player. I hope fans believe that now. I’m sure they see the difference in his game in that little time. That’s what I like, what I enjoy.
“I thought Mikko [Koivu] played fantastic in the playoffs. Just a great leader. I thought the team was bonding pretty good and was heading in the right direction, and now Boudreau’s in and he’ll do a great job. He’s been a great coach in the league. I wish him the best of luck. He’s a good guy.”
The Wild would like to address the Iowa opening before the June 24-25 draft, if not sooner.
David Cunniff, 8-11-2-3 as Iowa’s interim coach after Torchetti’s promotion, will get strong consideration. He is the son of former New Jersey Devils and Hartford Whalers Head Coach John Cunniff.
Torchetti had one final thought: “Tell the fans I really appreciate their support. They were unbelievable. I thought they were fantastic. I thought they were behind us, and I felt it. I felt their support.”