Tortorella Has a Five Year Deal, Wants the Twins to Kill Penalties and Doesn’t Use

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As the book opens on the John Tortorella era in Vancouver, the Canucks unveiled a clever media blitz and deployed a lobotomized Willy Loman version of Tortorella in an interview with the fans. As such, Tortorella had made a mostly favourable impression on the fan-base before he even met with reporters on Tuesday afternoon in Vancouver.

During Tuesday afternoon’s newser, Tortorella and Mike Gillis address a wide variety of concerns about the coaching hire and answered questions on topics like style of play, what this Canucks club needs to get back to the summit, and how involved ownership was in the hiring of the man who prefers to go by "Torts." It was a disappointing performance, in that it was a mostly respectful affair with Tortorella even showing contrition for his handling of the media in the past, but there was still a lot of grist for us to chew over.

Click past the jump for more.

On Tuesday afternoon Tortorella faced a bevy of questions concerning his preferred style of play, and in particular, the parodic, stultifying, collapsing defensive system he primarily employed in New York. Like Alain Vigneault before him, Tortorella emphasized that the ‘offense versus defense’ dichotomy is a lazy misnomer:

"You look at the playoffs, especially in the finals here, you look at what that Chicago team can do offensively, but they played hard defensively too. I don’t think there’s a coach in this league that doesn’t want more offense of its club, but that should not short circuit defense. You will not win championships unless you play defense, and there has to be a concept there… That’s when you have a complete team when you’re going as best you can offensively but also commit to playing away from the puck and playing defense…"

Tortorella elaborated somewhat on tactics, and zone-matching schemes in particular, explaining that "putting players in situations where they can succeed" is a critical part of his job as a head coach. Also, and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but it turns out that you can employ progressive deployment patterns as an NHL coach even if you’ve never heard of Common sense and fancy-stats are essentially one in the same…

Mostly John Tortorella came off as intelligent on Tuesday, at least in my opinion. He also came off as self-critical, and confident. He emphasized the pride he took in "(changing) the landscape" in New York "from a free-agent haven, to building a team with our young kids." He emphasized again and again that he hopes to do something similar in Vancouver, at least in terms of developing young players.

Tortorella also diagnosed an area of weakness on the Canucks roster, opining that the club "needs some more bite." Tortorella elaborated, "I think the attitude of, just being a stiffer team, is going to come to the forefront as we build this."

Sitting alongside his new head coach, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis confirmed that the team has signed the controversial coach to a five-year contract. So despite the rampant speculation that Tortorella’s hire was done with the short-term in mind, the team has made a significant commitment to him. Mike Gillis also explained ownerships concerning involvement in the process of selecting a new head coach and insisted that he’d invited ownership to sit in on candidate interviews, and that the decision to hire "Torts" was a unanimous one.

Where Tortorella began to get a bit more reflective was when the subject of his often testy relationship with the media was broached. To his credit, Tortorella took responsibility for his bad reputation, and explained some of the motivation behind his frosty public demeanor. Asked if his reputation bothers him, Tortorella responded with this:

"Honestly yes. I’m a human being. But listen I don’t blame anybody, it comes my way. I make my own bed with this stuff that is on me. But you know what, I think i"m a pretty good coach too. This is the mess I put myself into and this is the mess I need to get myself out of. And like I said, it’s very important especially here, to make sure… that I’m not going to put this organization into a difficult spot

He then dropped this choice nugget as an explanation for why he’s come across as petulant in the past:

"’Cause I hate losing. I do. That’s a big part of it. I can’t stand losing. Everybody says "be a good loser," and I think if you’re a good loser, you’re a loser."

That’s the golden sound bite for you, right there.

Tortorella added that he felt he’d gone too far on occasion, especially when his antics put his players in tough situations. He vowed that in Vancouver, "it will be rectified."

At the end of the day a leopard can’t change his spots. Tortorella probably, maybe even inevitably, will lash out at a dumb question at some point during his Vancouver tenure and there will be drama. Oh yes, drama and pageviews /laughs malevolently. But in Vancouver, a city that has never been accused of being "a good loser," Tortorella should fit right in.

A final fascinating nugget and perhaps the most technical hockey point made by Tortorella in Tuesday’s press conference, came in an answer to a question about whether or not he’ll make the Sedin twins block shots. "Torts" essentially answered that of course he would, and he shared his plans to deploy Vancouver’s twin Art Ross winners as penalty-killers next season:

"I’ll tell you right now, they’re going to kill penalties, and they’re going to block shots. If you’re going to play proper defense that has to be part of their equation… I think they’ll welcome it, because they want to get better, they want to win a championship."

My general sense of this is that if you have the personnel to spare the twins from playing major minutes at four-on-five, you should probably do so.

On the other hand the twins were challenged this past season to pick up the two-way slack in Ryan Kesler’s absence, and they raised their game. Unbeknownst to the majority of the hockey commentariat the twins turned in the best season of defensive hockey in their respective careers at the age of thirty-two. It was unprecedented, really.

So could the twins become penalty-killing aces if called on to do so next season? Probably. Is it the best way to allocate the teams resources? Probably not, but I’m really interested to watch the twins try to cycle the puck when the Canucks are down a man…

Overall what did you think of the first impression Tortorella made on Tuesday, dear readers?

  • DCR

    “Mike Gillis also explained ownerships concerning involvement in the process of selecting a new head coach and insisted that he’d invited ownership to sit in on candidate interviews, and that the decision to hire “Torts” was a unanimous one.”

    I believe this. It’s well known how much Aquilini disliked AV so you’d want to invite him in early on so the organization is aligned this time through.

  • DCR

    I’m excited for next season.

    I actually believe that fans here can be just as emotional as he can, and may identify with some of his inevitable tangents. They may even find it endearing as long as its not baseless.

    • I’m with you. He’s honest, sincere, and hates to lose. It’s amazing the amount of baseless negativity that has already been written without even giving the guy a chance to show what he can do with our group. Even in this article referring to him as being presented as a “Lobotomized version” of himself. Seriously, was the guy expected to walk up to the podium and say, “I’m your new Coach Torts, F.O. and deal with it. Have a great day, I’m out.”

      Most of his issues with the media are because he’s always commenting in the heat of the moment or shortly thereafter…and hates to lose. I think anybody that can’t relate hasn’t played the game or had to answer the same stupid questions over and over, even on bad days.

      I’m with the Hockey people on this one, he’s the right coach at the right time. I’m basing that on his coaching, not his personality as perceived by the media.

      • Well I have to tell ya, Im from N.Y.been a die hard RANGER fan for the past 50 yrs ( HOLY BATMAN REALLY 50!!?)
        Anyways Im sorry to see him go…We here in N.Y. dont really know why he was fired,but we can all guess..
        I think if given a chance you guys up north will be happy with his determination to win.More dedicated than most coaches I have seen..
        GOOD LUCK TORTS!!!!

      • The negativity steams from the fans who enjoy watching their pampered stars get humiliated in the play offs, and can not bear to see their under performing, over achieving stars face accountability. Those fans act as if their team has won it all and that I even once rad here someone commented that winning the ” SC” Stanley Cup was not the be all end if somehow by trying to marginalize the Cup, that somehow their team can escape judgement.

        Then their are the delusional dreamers, who will support anything this team does, lose or lose even worse. They will support the Canucks no matter what but don’t understand that they are doing more harm that way then good. All athletes need to be pushed, and if the fans don’t push their team, what would you expect from players who are all filthy rich? If I was getting paid millions to fail, why should I even try? Let’s face it, if we ran our business like the way the Canucks build a team for the cup, we’d all be bankrupt. You can try telling that to any of these delusional optimists but the reality is these kinds of folks are not interested in change but the if by not succeeding will somehow lead to success.

        The Hawks have shown what it takes to beat the Bruins, which is to simply expose Chara, much like they exposed the Sedins and the rest of the Canucks. But criticism is a dangerous thing here, it’s not allowed and you may be called a troll or a hater just because the band wagoneers do not like having facts thrown at their faces, even if it’s the truth.

  • Well I guess I will give him a chance. He certainly will have a more hands on approach which may serve to motivate certain players more.

    But what does this mean:

    “I think the attitude of, just being a stiffer team, …..”

    More viagra?

  • I was waiting for Torts to tear a strip off a media member. You watch his face during the Q&A and you wait for it to contort into a look that says, `what, are you facking stupid?’.

    Unnatural. Watching the presser was like watching Mike Tyson do ballet.

    Wish Torts well though

    • The Josi contract shouldn’t preclude the Canucks from trading Edler if they feel it is the best course of action for the team.

      If anything, it shows the premium placed on impact defenseman. Or in Josi’s case, a potential impact defenseman I suppose.

  • I’ve said it form the get go, this is the biggest mistake they’ll ever make.

    The teams possesion #’s will be the lowest we’ve seen in a long time. The injuries will skyrocket and they’ll never see the SCF under Torts. BUST move.

    • DCR

      Anything has to be better than the last two playoff performances. Obviously injuries will happen, but how can there be more injuries than the last two seasons under AV??? I am willing to bet it is a better move than keeping A.V with a stale environment. GOOD move

  • I don’t know. I didn’t watch the presser, but saying that you’re going to teach the twins to block shots doesn’t sound like the first thing you want to say about them at your presser. Those guys are super dialed in already. I don’t mind if they kill penalties a bit, but you don’t want to stop using Burrows, Kesler, Higgins, and Hansen, so that means they’d come out after? Maybe for games that Vancouver is in penalty trouble, and you don’t want them too long on the bench. But it would be more impressive if he manages to teach a young guy like Kassian to kill penalties, meaning he’d learn to position himself and his stick much better.

    Also, I occasionally tuned into the Boston-NYR series, and it was just deadly. Boston can play the up-tempo game pretty good (as much as I’m not a fan, and was pleased to see them beaten in the SCF). NYR were deadly boring though. Yes, Chicago played defense, and yes it’s necessary to win. But Chicago also has Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Sharp, along with some other high calibre offensive talent. Vancouver’s line up isn’t quite there up front, so not exactly a good comparison.

    I guess I’m in wait and see mode, but not terribly optimistic.

    • DCR

      As a longtime Rangers fan, Torts had his positive moments but the Rangers were frightenly dull and predictable on offense. Tort’s best moments in NYC were behind him and he could not move the team forward. Most would agree that there was more offensive talent there than what showed up on the stat sheet. The power play was anemic, and the determined lack of creativity on offense was frightening–even a PeeWee coach can see that you can’t score if three guys are constantly behind the goal line and your defense is 50′ away all the time. And this just in: most coaches are just as competitive as Torts, but they don’t call their players out in the press and thell them they stink on the power play (and who coaches that?). When things get hot in Vancouver, don’t expect to see the lobotomized Torts you saw in the presser.

  • I didn’t expect much but I found myself satisfied with most of what he had to say. However, putting the Sedin’s on the PK is a huge red flag for me. There’s really no reason to do it. The PK is not the problem with the Canucks, and I don’t really think that the benefit of whatever morale boost you’ll get from seeing Henrik and Daniel shut down an opponents power play is worth the risk of injury and the cost of offensive minutes they would be playing instead.

    • Errr..ok, right, and should we also hire a butler for the Sedins during the game so then they can refresh themselves with lemonade just so they can have tasty refreshments. How about we get a massage chair for the twins on the bench whenever too when they’re not on the ice so they can relax their ” tired” million dollar muscles? Are you even serious? You think pampering the Sedins even more is going to get you more in return? Do you know what ” competition” even really means? To battle? To compete and to sacrifice? Man!

  • DCR

    Another Ranger fan here who was very sorry to see Torts go and wish him well out there. You will find that the perception of Torts is far different than the reality. He did a great job restoring respectability to the Rangers, and like he said today I’m sorry he’s not getting a chance to finish the job.

    Was interesting to hear Torts say that he and AV have been speaking regularly for the past couple weeks.

  • Rangers fan here. I have been covering a lot of the x’s and o’s and hockey systems of Tortorella every step of the way at, a Rangers site similar to this one.

    I have to say, the amount of misinformation out there about Torts is almost comical. He is far from a “defense first coach” at least in the traditional sense and he completely changed the culture of our organization.

    You guys are in very good hands with Torts. He is an excellent bench manger, his systems reward players who compete and he’s much more revealing than the NY media gave him credit for.

    I highly suggest all Canucks fans youtube Behind the Bench, which was a half hour show on MSG Network (local sports net in NYC) where Torts broke down film, and answered tough questions about the team and individual players. He was pretty thoughtful.

    Anyway. Good luck to you guys. I’ll def be following the Canucks more than ever now.

  • I don’t mind the twins getting some PK time, especially in penalty filled games. I don’t want them sitting on the bench for half a period.

    That being said, they can and probably will block shots, but I’d rather they didn’t so much. But Torts is probably right, the Sedins are incredibly offensive performers, but they never stop trying to get better. It’s why they had such a good defensive year last year, and it’s why they’ll welcome killing penalties and blocking shots.

  • I just watched the presser. Going into it, my concerns about Torts were “does this guy have a freeking clue about puck possession?”. Does he care about underlying #’s, etc etc. Judging by his record, he doesn’t have a crap about puck possession, cause his teams are not strong ones. And we all know, if you don’t have a strong puck possession team – you ain’t getting to the SCF. And he was allegedly “brought” here to get the team over the hump. They’re not rebuilding.

    So I was grateful when Cam asked “have you ever heard about BTN?”. When he looked bewildered and confused, I had my answer. He has no clue.

    My concern level for this hire is at an all time high.

    • DCR

      Torts would respond by saying. “eeexxxxsccccuuuse meeeee, I forgot how much puck possession your ccnucks had when the Sharks mopped the floor with them. ” This game is about winning, scoring goals, it’s no good if you have the puck but can’t score, is it now? The Canucks sure had a lot of puck possession in the 7th game finals against Boston..too bad it was their net that possessed all the pucks.

  • DCR

    “I didn’t expect much but I found myself satisfied with most of what he had to say. However, putting the Sedin’s on the PK is a huge red flag for me. There’s really no reason to do it.”

    I can see one possible reason: To take advantage of the Henrik’s durability, especially when compared to Kesler.

  • DCR

    The Sedins should be on the penalty kill or making whine if that’s what it takes to win when it counts. They need to earn their money and the need to earn respect through hard work and sacrifice. This is a hockey team, not a Beverly Hills Country Club 90210.

    • DCR

      So the most important thing is to teach guys a lesson, not to use your players in the best way possible?

      Come on now, this is exactly the type of fan-think I’m afraid Torts is going to employ.

      • “So the most important thing is to teach guys a lesson, not to use your players in the best way possible?

        Come on now, this is exactly the type of fan-think I’m afraid Torts is going to employ”

        So you really think that putting Sedins on the penalty kill is a way to teach them a lesson? Really Wow, man, you make it sound like I’m asking for the Sedins to walk over a trail of broken glass. Do you know just about every other player or star in the NHL can kill penalties? Do you even watch hockey at all, mate? What, are they ” too good” for the penalty kill? Where do you in your head get that idea? The Sedins as I’m sure you know don’t penalty kill, they don’t fight, they don’t hit, they sure as hell don’t lead in the post season, and if they are not scoring, what the hell else are they doing?

        Oh but nooooo, don’t put them on the penalty kill because it’s too ” hard ” for them,they need to be sugar coated, they’re special and do not need to kill penalties. Woah, I’m so far off base for suggesting the Sedins need to do more, so far off base. Sorry, I wouldn’t want the Sedins going on the penalty kill to ruin all the good times you got from watching them win the Stanley Cup. Oh wait, the Canucks have never won anything. Am I far off base by saying that as well?

    • LOL. It’s like you make it sound like the twins are 6 year olds in a daycare being made to gymnastics. LOL. They’re million dollar so called pro athletes. They play hockey, there are things in a hockey game besides 5 on 5 action. Do you know that? I can’t believe the nonsense I hear from some of the so called fans here. It’s as if the twins are some special pre madonnas who need to be pampered, but if you ask them to do what everyone else who has to do to win, ei block shots or kill penalties, than there’s hell to pay because the Sedins special yadda yadda. Now I see why the Canucks have never won a cup, it’s not them that accepts losing, it’s their fans.

      ” Yeah, I guess my spoiled 8 year old kids could do gymnastics when they take gymnastics classes, but if they get hurt , there will be hell to pay. ” LOL. Do you even hear what you wrote , man? LMFAO.

  • looking forward to this entertaining season coming up I hope he does well with this team. I haven’t been a fan of his but after his press conference this week I’m a little more open minded about the canucks decision to hire him.