For the third time in his coaching career, John Torchetti, who has coached at every level imaginable, will be called upon on an interim basis to light a torch under a floundering NHL team.
Torchetti, who won a Stanley Cup as associate coach with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, will take over the Wild for the rest of the season, the team announced Saturday night. Known in the hockey world as “Torch,” he coached the Florida Panthers for 27 games in 2003-04 (10-12-4-1) and the Los Angeles Kings for 12 games in 2005-06 (5-7).
Torchetti, 51, a native of Jamaica Plain, Mass., with a thick New England accent, has coached the Iowa Wild to a 15-29-6 record this season. That’s the second-worst record in the American Hockey League, but the team is 10-7-1 in its past 18 after a 5-22-5 start. He coached Iowa against Grand Rapids on Saturday night, but sources say Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant GM Brent Flahr and owner Craig Leipold visited Torchetti in Des Moines on Friday to inform him this move could be close.
That means Mike Yeo was coaching for his job Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins.
This was Torchetti’s second stint as the Wild’s minor league coach. He was hired by Fletcher in November 2014 after Fletcher fired Kurt Kleinendorst. Torchetti previously coached the Wild’s now-relocated Houston Aeros affiliate to back-to-back postseason berths (75-51-26). He then coached Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League for one season (32-20-2).
Besides Florida and Chicago, Torchetti also has been associate coach with the Atlanta Thrashers and an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He has more than 20 years of pro coaching experience, with time in the ECHL, CHL (Coach of the Year in 1995 in San Antonio), now-defunct International Hockey League (Coach of the Year in 1998 in Fort Wayne), AHL and NHL. He was GM of the IHL Detroit Vipers.
He’s a former minor league goal scorer who got his career started playing for longtime NHL executive Rick Dudley for the Atlantic Coast League’s Carolina Thunderbirds in the mid-1980s. He once had 63- and 51-goal seasons and one 134-point season. As the stories go, Dudley used to drive the buses and Torchetti would sit in the front seat and stay up every night until 3 or 4 in the morning talking hockey and life with Dudley.
“Torch is a wonderfully gifted coach,” Dudley once said. “He’s a very sharp technician and communicator and teacher. He spends tireless hours doing film.”
When Flahr ran the San Antonio minor league franchise for Florida, Torchetti was the head coach and they became good friends.
When he coached his first team in Greensboro, Torchetti worked for free and on the side drove a taxi to earn a living.