Tortorella Reax

Thomas Drance
June 24 2013 09:55AM


John Tortorella is a dog person so he's alright by me.
Image via SNYrangersblog.com

I spent the weekend drinking, moving and spending quality time with loved ones in anticipation of a grueling two week hockey news gaunlet; an onslaught that will include the awarding of the Stanley Cup, the naming of a new Canucks coach, the opening of the buyout window, the one-day marathon NHL draft, and free-agency too.

It's that the news cycle stops for no man, so let's get back on our Tortroella grind (insert "hot dad joke" here), and round up the reactions to the hire from across the hockey world.

Read past the jump.

Bob McKenzie says that the Canucks will officially announce the Tortorella hire on Tuesday:

I guess we might write some posts about that tomorrow...

On Saturday night, during the second period "Hot Stove" segment of the CBC's broadcast of game five of the Stanley Cup Final, Elliotte Friedman offered up some typically illuminating insight into Vancouver's decision making process:

"When I was doing the research on it today, the one thing I was told is: follow all of the connections. Among the people the Canucks spoke to were Markus Naslund, who played for John Tortorella in New York, he's formerly a Mike Gillis client... Their assistant Laurence Gilman worked with Tortorella in Phoenix, Chris Higgins played for him. I think also - they did speak to their key players and let the know that this is what we're thinking of doing.

I think what it came down to... is that it was John Tortorella or John Stephens, and if you ask a lot of other GMs around the league: the media thing is a big wild card; but if you have to win in two years like this Canucks roster probably does, John Tortorella was the best coach available."

Modo General Manager Markus Naslund, who was reportedly consulted on the John Tortorella hire, vouched for the controversial bench boss to the Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer:

"He is more intense, both on the bench throughout the games and between periods and stuff," Naslund said of Tortorella. "But in a good way. In my experience, and that's only half a season, I thought he was honest and straightforward. And as a player I appreciate that, even if sometimes it's stuff you might not like to hear. I appreciate people that bring it to you and are up front.

...

I didn't find any comparison in the media scrutiny in New York compared to Vancouver. There is so much focus on the hockey team in Vancouver. It's something that comes with the territory and you need to be able to handle it if you are the coach. Coming from Tampa to New York was probably a big step media-wise for John. Now it's another step."

Iain Macintyre wonders whether or not John Tortorella is really Mike Gillis's guy, and passes along some concerning details about ownership involvement during the interview process:

Aquilini, whose family’s investment in the Canucks is every bit as emotional as financial — and they have a tonne of money at stake, has been highly involved in interviewing coaching candidates. One source indicated it was an extremely unusual process, with the managing owner and other Aquilini family members fully participating with Gillis in interviews, rather than allowing hockey operations to sort through candidates before presenting finalists — or the winner — for the boss’s approval.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with ownership’s involvement, as long as Aquilini allows Gillis to make the key hockey decisions.

Ben Kuzma suggests that the Canucks will bring in a soft spoken foil for Tortorella:

Tortorella is fiery and combative with the media, goes with his gut instinct on roster decisions and doesn’t worry about feelings. Ask Brad Richards. His greatest failing in being fired by the Rangers on May 29 is that he didn’t have anybody wearing the white hat at Madison Square Garden -- a guy who could not only accept the role of being a players’ coach, but help Tortorella temper his approach behind the bench and in the front of microphones.

That’s what the Canucks were anxious to see in their second interview with Tortorella, whether those edges can be softened a bit or whether he needs another Craig Ramsay, his assistant in Tampa Bay who excelled in that role and helped coax the Lightning to a 2004 Stanley Cup championship.

Hey there's nothing wrong with checks and balances...

Daniel Wagner highlights John Tortorella's advocacy work on behalf of, in particular, the canine population:

Tortorella and his wife, Christine, run the Tortorella Family Foundation, which, according to their mission statement, “was created to enable our family to reach out to more children in disadvantaged situations, to help others who work to improve the lives of these children and their families, and to help those who protect children, animals, and our environment from harm.”

In practical terms, this means they partner with various charities to raise money and awareness for various causes. One of Tortorella’s obvious passions is dogs, and the foundation’s website frequently points out SPCA events and even highlights dogs up for adoption.

Maybe it's just me, but passionate work on behalf of rescue dogs strikes me as a more compelling "quality human being" data point than "dealing brusquely with hockey media."

Greg Wyshynski suggests that the John Tortorella hire may just be crazy enough to work:

He’s the shot-blocking coach that ran Marian Gaborik out of town and benched Brad Richards in playoff elimination games, on a team that’s built around two Swedish twins that are softer than Egyptian cotton in the postseason.

He’s the coach whose teams can’t score in the playoffs, relying too heavily on goaltending to save the day. And Vancouver just fired that guy.

...

But the Canucks are in a win-now mode. Tortorella’s a roman candle: He burns bright, sparks flying, for short duration before he burns out. If the notion is that this roster has the heart of a champion, then Tortorella’s a defibrillator in a way that John Stevens, for example, isn’t.

Wyshynski, apparently, is none to impressed by the fact that both Sedin twins have outpaced their "expected playoff point totals" in their careers by nearly a full standard error. /Adjusts glasses, takes a hit of my inhaler.

Katie Baker might be having a bit too much fun with the media firestorm John Tortorella has already been subjected to in Vancouver:

Tony Gallagher files a dispatch live from Mike Gillis's hot seat:

So if this hasn’t been properly calculated, Gillis is gambling his job. That is consistent with what he’s all about, to say nothing of the push from the highly charged and recently disgruntled ownership.

Gillis didn’t get into this business to hang onto his job as long as possible so as to make as much money as possible. He has numerous other ways to go about that. He took the job to win a Stanley Cup, not for any other reason.

Given the Vancouver window may be shutting with the Sedins and many others getting older, this move is entirely consistent with trying to give it one last shot to win.

Ed Wiles slams the Tortorella hiring and describes the "obnoxious" former Rangers coach as a Mike Keenan redux:

Francesco Aquilini, the man presumably behind this decision, is labouring under the misapprehension that the team needs a butt-kicker, a motivator to shake it out of its lethargy. That would be fine if this was 1964. But you don’t reach players with the drill-sergeant approach anymore. Today’s player has to be self-motivated and maniacally driven or he never reaches the NHL. The thought that players like the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Cory Schneider and Kevin Bieksa grew fat and lazy under Vigneault’s watch is insulting to them and their years of service to the Canucks.

But, in much the way exasperated parents think military school would benefit their wayward teenager, Aquilini thinks Tortorella is just the man to set the Canucks straight. That’s fine in theory. But in reality, Tortorella’s personality is simply an impossible fit for this organization. If the Canucks were about egos and stars, then maybe this might work. But under Gillis’s watch they’ve been about something else. They’ve been about the collective. They’ve policed themselves. Most of those players have also taken substantially less to play in this environment.>/p>

Hey if John Tortorella is the second coming of Mike Keenan that might be exactly what the Canucks need. Keenan is, after all, the only guy on the market with experience managing to trade Roberto Luongo!

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 yugret
June 24 2013, 10:24AM
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Where can I go to bet the under on the number of games Kesler plays next season?

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#2 Ruprecht
June 24 2013, 11:04AM
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Reading all of this stuff only makes me like this hiring more. When Gillis starts listening to the media and fans, we're in trouble. Some of the writers out here deserve a little dose of what they dish.

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#3 Choderama
June 24 2013, 12:01PM
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Caman, Wysh. Embarrassing.

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#4 Graphic Comments
June 24 2013, 02:26PM
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I dunno, Thom, the dealing brusquely with the hockey media is a positive indicator of quality human being, if you ask me...

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#5 pemoco
June 24 2013, 08:39PM
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I really wouldn't worry about what the rest of the hockey world thinks of the Tortorella hire. Many of them don't have any interest in your team's success. Having watched Torts in action the last four years there is no doubt that he improved the Rangers in many ways. If you dogged it you sat. From the start, good play was rewarded. Half-assed effort meant a seat on the bench, Torts restored a sense of identity to the organization after a decade of mercenary team-building. Despite Sather bringing Kotalik and Lisin and Frolov and other guys who cared only about themselves, Torts went with the guys wgi give their all for the team. Even this past year it was a pretty good run on team thin on talent. The media tried to make a major issue out of every soundbite, just as they always had. Torts had to deal with the Sean Avery soap opera, a GM who picks up shiny objects off the trash heap and idiot owner predicting a cup win. But throughout it all his teams played with heart and never quit on him. My advice to Canucks fans is ignore the hype see if the little angry man makes a difference in the quality of your team's effort.

And for those who want to make the comparison with Keenan, you can see the two of them together a lot, as MSG produced a show, "Behind the Bench" with the two of them. They're available on youtube - the first one is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qDLAyYNZUQ

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