Other Shoe Finally Drops: John Tortorella Fired

Dimitri Filipovic
April 30 2014 10:01PM

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After a whirlwind of news to start the month of April - with Mike Gillis was relieved of his duties and Trevor Linden being introduced as the President of Hockey Operations - things have been awfully quiet around these parts lately. Things had gotten so bleak in waiting for the next domino to fall, that this was legitimately passed off as news

While the team's new decision-maker has taken his time in doing his due diligence and "downloading all of the data", John Tortorella's been left to wither on the vine as he awaits the final verdict on his future with the organization.

Now, we've long since learned that nothing is out of the realm of possibility with the Vancouver Canucks, but this particular decision seemed fairly cut-and-dried on the surface. Based on how pathetically the season unfolded in Tortorella's first season behind the bench, the axe being dropped on his regime seemed like more of a matter of "when" than "if"..

Well, let's just say that if you had April 30th in your office pool, you're the first person to gain anything from the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks season. TSN's Farhan Lalji - who dropped the hammer on what was already a hectic night in the sports world - was the first on the scene to report that the coach will be fired tomorrow morning, bringing an abrupt and premature end to a tenure that was supposed to contractually last 4 years longer than it did. Of note, though, is that they're only expected to pay out $1.6 million due to quite the nifty little loophole.

As we watch other teams compete in the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks are now a rudderless squad in shambles, without neither a Head Coach nor a General Manager currently in place. How the times have changed around these parts, as 2011 seems like another lifetime ago now..

It's tough to imagine that anyone, including Tortorella himself, could be remotely caught off guard by this piece of news. The writing has been on the wall for a while now, particularly after Trevor Linden didn't exactly give him any real sort of tangible vote of confidence during his initial media blitz. 

During the team's locker clean-out and media availability, Tortorella sounded like something of a desperate man that was throwing some final haymakers on his way down. I think Jason Botchford summarized his final session perfectly:

"As far as last stands go, John Tortorella's was as brilliant as it was ridiculous. It was filled with both hard truths and nonsensical contradictions. Amazing, really. Just like this season."

"Amazing" is one way to describe what unfolded over the past calendar year. This is anotherThis is, too.

If someone asks you to explain to them what exactly went wrong to bring a once great team to this point, first ask them how much time they have. Because aside from snarkily responding with "everything!", there's way too convoluted a mess to sort through to succinctly summarize things. 

I guess the overwhelming number of soul crushing injuries are as good a place as any to start, but the issue is more deep-rooted than that. After all, teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins each dealt with their fair share of guys missing extended periods of time, yet didn't crumble like the Canucks did. Which brings up Tortorella's criticisms from the aforementioned swan song presser, that the team is too stale and lacks depth. 

Both are valid critiques, but also seem like they were self-inflicted by the coach himself. In one of his first appearances in front of the Vancouver media back in July, Tortorella told fans of the team what they wanted to hear. That he was a changed coach, who had intentions on helping expedite the "youth movement" people had been clamouring for, and criticized his predecessor for supposedly suppressing. 

As the year progressed, it was a lot of same old, same old, though. In fact, it may've been worse than ever. He rode the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler into the ground in the first couple of months of the season, and they were never the same after that. 

A guy like Zack Kassian was routinely playing down the depth chart, while Jannik Hansen was, inexplicably, a top-6 stalwart for large chunks of the campaign. Top Sixtito was a fixture in the lineup, while younger, more skilled guys like Zac Dalpe and Jordan Schroeder needed all of the stars to align just to sniff any sort of meaningful playing time. Admittedly, while it's not like he had a plethora of burgeoning assets to work with, he didn't exactly utilize what he had said he would just to get in with the crowd. 

Even more egregious, though, was the coach's refusal to adapt to the chess pieces he was playing with. There's forcing a square peg into a round hole, and then there's what he attempted to turn the Canucks into. He preached selling out for blocked shots (up from 11.44% of all shot attempts against in '11-'12 to 14.2% this past season), and whether or not that directly led to the inordinately large number of injuries sustained remains a topic of debate.

What seems pretty clearly settled however, is that the Canucks sure seemed to be out of position more frequently than they had been in the past. In fact, I think you were just gift-wrapped an uncovered shot from the slot yourself! Congratulations, reader! It also led to a far less effective counterattack, particularly due to an uncharacteristically unpolished breakout scheme. Hopefully we'll be able to get some updated zone exist figures sometime this summer

What was once a squad that the opposition genuinely feared because of their ability to embarrass them and make them look silly with their superior talent, was not only neutered, but then, in a misguided attempt to compensate for it, turned into a sideshow that aimed for moral victories more than actual victories in the win column.

Yet the fact still remains that, despite everything that converged into this perfect storm, the Canucks appear to be a prime candidate to bounce back with a more respectable showing next season. They were a top-10 possession team, and there's reason to believe that we'll see an uptick in some of the percentages that bit them in the rear in '13-'14.

When a few players have the worst seasons of their respective career, you can look past it and say it was just an unfortunate coincidence. But when everyone suffers the same fate, it's fair to look for an explanation beyond the surface as to what gives. How much Tortorella factored into that can't be tangibly calculated, but let's just say that if both the players and the team have something of a quick resurgence you shouldn't be overly surprised.

Yes, John Tortorella's tenure as bench boss was a colossal disappointing on nearly every single front, but at least it provided us with this gem that we'll always be able to draw a laugh from. Torts, he has finally been freed:

 photo Torts_zps7657f88d.gif

As for us, we'll find ourselves occupying this platform with a coaching profile series to familiarize everyone with some of the more notable candidates for the now vacant job. Hey, at least we've got the luxury of being able to go back to the well, and recycle some of last year's series, right? There could also potentially be a rather notable name to add to the top of the list..

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Dimitri Filipovic writes about hockey on the internet, and is the Managing Editor of Canucks Army. You can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic, and email him at dimitri.filipovic@gmail.com.
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#51 PB
May 02 2014, 01:58AM
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@NM00

I quite agree though part of me thinks your half-trolling all the conspiracy theorists and anti-Linden brigade here with your comment

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#52 PB
May 02 2014, 01:58AM
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@PB

You're

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#53 HPC
May 02 2014, 03:14AM
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@PB

You two need to seriously get a room at the Ivanhoe.

It's like a creepy clicky brother sister incest love hate relationship you 5 guys have going on here.

I thought I'd be nice and point that out to you guys before Ted joins in.

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#54 Ruprecht
May 02 2014, 10:58AM
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NM00 wrote:

Why would you suggest Luongo is a coach/GM killer and not say the same of Henrik, Daniel, Kesler, Bieksa?

And what makes you think Tallon is getting fired?

This is probably the best time in franchise history to be a Florida fan, imo...

You missed the joke here. If you're still following hockey, Florida's coach got canned too. None of the guys you mentioned played there as well this year. Tallon was also part of the joke, nothing says he's getting fired. *coaxes camel to drink*

Take a good look at the history at the of the Florida franchise. It has seen better times, yes before you fire it at me, new ownership, new direction. But I'm not so sure I'd agree this is the best time to be a Panthers fan, unless you are travelling to Florida looking for cheap hockey tickets.

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#55 Vic
May 02 2014, 11:15AM
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@#FireLinden

@#FireLinden

I do agree with you that he's by no way shape or form will be guaranteed to build a winner. In fact, there is a good chance he will fail, especially its not easy cleaning house on a team full of NTC's...

However I did take offense that you undervalued Linden as a player - at his best - 3rd line centre at his worst, sure, but 75 points in 80 games is considered 3rd line material? I can't imagine what is considered 4th line points if that was the case...

Your analogies are weak at best. Your simple logic has its fallacy. That playing, coaching/managing are not hand in hand. Did Gretzky, Nieuwendyk, Clark, Hull - who are considered great players in some circles - made that great of coaches/GM's? While fringe/average former players like Shero, Babcock, Crawford, Quenneville all have either coached or shaped a team to win a cup?

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#56 NM00
May 02 2014, 11:49AM
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@PB

I'm actually sincere when I say I've liked what Linden has done so far.

Of course, sometimes it's hard to tell when I'm sincere and when I'm trolling...

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#57 NM00
May 02 2014, 11:54AM
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@Ruprecht

I know FLA fired their coach. But Lou wasn't in Vancouver when Torts was fired...

Perhaps I'm overly optimistic about Florida now that they have Tallon, new ownership, Lou and will soon have another potentially impact player via the draft.

But there at least seems to be some reason for hope...

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#58 Ruprecht
May 02 2014, 12:29PM
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NM00 wrote:

I know FLA fired their coach. But Lou wasn't in Vancouver when Torts was fired...

Perhaps I'm overly optimistic about Florida now that they have Tallon, new ownership, Lou and will soon have another potentially impact player via the draft.

But there at least seems to be some reason for hope...

Argh. I had no idea you'd take it so literally. It's humour, you'll have to allow some freedom around the facts to fully appreciate it.

Impact players via the draft isn't exactly what Florida needs at the moment. Although it's a killer asset to have in the bank, they are in the same-ish kind of boat as the Oil whereas they need to break free from the draft dependency and go out and get some more veteran "impact". At least in my armchair GM position.

I will say this, I like the youth foundation they have a lot better than the Oil. It seems a little less disjointed, and more suited to building around. Lots of size too.

Agree with you on Linden, makes perfect sense if you're hiring a new GM to let him have his man behind the bench. I liked Torts though, this season would have been really boring without him.

You should start printing T-shirts for your fan club. It's really taking off these days.

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#59 #FireLinden
May 02 2014, 02:40PM
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@Vic

Linden was the poster for the team when he played, but the reality was that he was never going to be good enough to be s 1st liner. there were a lot of players who made Linden look better than he actually was. His trade from the team showed that he was over rated in a country club all that time.

Fact is, the Canucks and their fans and darling media have been saying how they need a center, need center and that's all it would take. Wrong, Canucks never went out to get one or develop one because they were lying out of their asses. Trevor was simply left overs to be used to sell tot he fans as prime cuts.

"While fringe/average former players like Shero, Babcock, Crawford, Quenneville all have either coached or shaped a team to win a cup?"

Again, why are you talking about winners and a winner organizations? It's not like your Canucks are winners. It's not like they won anything, in fact they never won anything. Your examples are pathetic at best, trying say that some great ex players weren't great coaches means that average joe Linden will do well here. LOL

well, going by your thinking, if Gretzky who was a heck of alot greater player than linden ever was couldn't make it as a coach, then what the hell is your Linden going to do? Face the facts, Linden is a joke, was and will be on a joke of a team who's an embarrassment to anyone who has to live in BC.

"there is a good chance he will fail, especially its not easy cleaning house on a team full of NTC's..."

And if Linden doesn't clean house he will fail. Not easy cleaning house? No sh&t sherlocke, look at how many years the circus hasn't been able to win a cup, look at how many years fans like yourself have been saying " it's too hard to get good players, it's too hard to get a good GM, it's too hard to get a good coach, it toooo haaaaaaaaaarrrrrdd.

You had some good players and coaches...and what did you guys do? that's right, you guys TRADED them and kept the LOSERS. AHEM the SEDIN SISTERS. Ya, you just keep sticking by them and I'll see you at the cup parade next year. HA!

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#60 #FireLinden
May 02 2014, 02:45PM
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@Vic

Yeah and you had a cup winning coach, but you guys fired him and kept the SH&T team. Good job, anyone with a brain would have done that.

Edler worst int he league, Sedins MIA, Burrows MIA, Kesler MIA, 1st and 2nd line MIA, who cares about that? Fire the coach! LOL

All the Canucks are missing is the Benny Hill music. Case closed.

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#61 Ruprecht
May 02 2014, 03:30PM
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@#FireLinden

Guaranteed you self propped.

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#62 #FireLinden
May 03 2014, 02:07AM
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@Ruprecht

No, but I trashed your comment you smarmy little man.

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