NHL goes in on John Tortorella, Suspends him for 6 games

I love the internet so very much. [GIF via @IAmByks]

 "OK, do we start shishkebabing John Tortorella right now, or.." were the wise words HNiC *analyst*, kickstarting his temper tantrum directed at the coach following his actions during the 1st intermission of Saturday night’s Fight Club.

Well, shishkebab away did Colin Campbell – note that it wasn’t Brendan Shanahan, who’s only responsible for player transgressions – when he dropped the hammer on the Canucks bench boss, suspending him for 15 days (essentially 6 games) without pay [maybe now he’ll have some time to come meet some fans and have a few rounds at The Pint on the 29th, perhaps?]

That means that we won’t be seeing him until February 3rd, when the Canucks embark on a 4-game Eastern Conference trip before heading into the Olympic break. By the sounds of it, assistant coaches Mike Sullivan – who spoke to the media in Tortorella’s stead this afternoon – and Glen Gulutzan (*gulp*) will handle the job in the meantime. 

Image via @mhenderson95

I don’t really have confidence in Glen Gulutzan to handle my lunch order, let alone run a team. Luckily for the Canucks, though, this upcoming stretch in the schedule is probably the easiest one of the year. They’ll play the Oilers twice, the Predators, the Coyotes (at home), and the Blackhawks. In theory they should show up to the arena on the night of the game and win at least 2-3 of those, but then again they did just barely squeek out a shootout victory against the Flames, so I guess nothing is a given at this point.

As for my thoughts on the suspension itself.. I don’t really have a strong take on this, since there’s so little precedent for something of this ilk. As Elliotte Friedman noted, the league fined George McPhee $20k and suspended him for a month back in ’99 for punching an opposing coach after a game. That was obviously an extreme example.

Closer to Tortorella’s transgression was the Shane Corson case back in ’99, when he tried to get into Vancouver’s dressing room in an attempt to get to Ed Jovanovski (following some disparaging comments by JovoCop). Corson received 5 games for that incident.

As for Tortorella himself, this is the 2nd time he has been suspended in his coaching career. The first was back in ’09, when he threw a water bottle at a fan in the crowd. He has done a great job – true to his word from the preseason – of containing himself, not taking the bait and getting riled up. I think that everyone figured it was just a matter of time before he finally snapped, and it appears that everything lined up perfectly for that to happen on Saturday night.

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Anyways, I’m sure Vancouver fans won’t like the ruling, seeing it as a something of a slight against the team they love. I guess I’m kind of OK with it, all things considered. For the record I was fine with Tortorella sending the guys he sent out to follow Hartley’s lead, for reasons that have already been discovered in depth.

Cam Charron and I spent a good 10-15 discussing it in exhausting detail on today’s podcast. The fact that Bob Hartley was only fined $25k (how much of that will he actually pay, even?) is kind of a joke given how bush league his actions were, but it was also something that I was expecting.

But the bottom line is that you simply can’t be doing what he did when he attempted to go into Calgary’s room, going all King Leonidas on the Flames. He had reason to be angry, but ultimately he handled himself poorly, letting his emotions get the best of him. It’s not a good look for the league, which is why I understand the ruling.

Now he has to pay the piper.. #FreeTorts

Some further reading:

An Elliotte Friedman-level of work by Elliotte Friedman here, as he looks at the situation from Tortorella’s perspective, to Hartley’s, all the way around to Brian Burke’s role in the matter. The money shot:

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"I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone about it last night, but there is no doubt Vancouver feels it gets officiated much more harshly since the Alex Burrows/Stephane Auger incident in 2010. I look at it another way: sometimes, I think teams get penalized when they play "differently" than expected.

Basically, every team has its identity and some of them are edgy. Some aren’t. The Canucks, right or wrongly, don’t have an "edgy" reputation as a group. So, when things happen (like Sestito on Jordan Nolan), it stands out. If Sestito played for Detroit, it would look weird, too.

Anyway, I’m betting your house that Tortorella HATES this… and is going to try and change it. The Canucks are in a kind of transition anyways, with some good young prospects ready to force their way into the lineup as soon as next season.

Our friend Brian Sutherby speaks from first-hand experience about the concept of "player selection", sharing a story about a dust-up between Washington and Atlanta back in ’06 (involving none other than Bob Hartley himself..):

"After the hit, a small melee ensued. This left each team playing 3 on 3. Our bench was irate. Many four letter words were exchanged before the next faceoff. What happened next is, Hartley either misread the situation or he intended to diffuse it with the players he put out. We were at home and had last change.

Hartley sent out Greg DeVries, Vitaly Vishnevskiy and Marian Hossa of all guys. Our head coach Glen Hanlon answered with Donald Brashear, John Erskine and Matt Bradley. Everyone knew what was going to happen whether you like it or not. We were not going to be pushed around again. Brashear beat the snot out of Vishnevskiy, Erskine gave Hossa a rough ride and DeVries and Bradley paired off."

The dudes over at Pass it to Bulis share their thoughts on the absurdity of everything that went down on Saturday night, with a whole lot of reminders that KEVIN BIEKSA WON THE FACEOFF. Also, a hilarious bit on Alex Burrows’ chirps towards former Canuck great Shane O’Brien:

  • Marsh

    My last word on all this (I think). I don’t know if Elliot Friedman is largely correct or not. I remember a little episode earlier this season when Patrick Roy pushed over the barricade between himself and Bruce Boudreau of the Ducks. The predominant response from the hockey media – or hypocritical Eastern bastards as I like to call them – was “Good for him. His passion is sparking his young team”.

    No disgrace to the league. No embarrassment.

    This team IS treated differently by officials. This team IS covered differently by hockey media. What this team and it’s fans need to learn to do is love it, embrace it. Sherman it.

    • FlamesRule

      But Tortorella didn’t get suspended for yelling across the partition at his counterpart (which he did do). He got suspended for needlessly and stupidly confronting the entire Flames team in between periods. The Flames are a complete joke. There was no reason to stoop to this level.

      It wasn’t that the Flames starting lineup was idiotic (seriously they have 3 fourth lines). It was that they were so obviously ready to fight and that’s it (at least McGratton and Westgarth). If the league were really serious about the “embarrassment” they should have at least suspended Westgarth 10 games for not having the slightest interest in doing anything other than jumping the other player. If a player gets ten games for leaving the bench for an altercation how is this not worth anything?

      • FlamesRule

        Don’t get me wrong. The suspension was inevitable and justified. That’s not my issue. My issue is the narrative. The predictable, hypocritical narrative.

        Anyhow. Back to hockey. Only so much drama I can take.

  • Marsh

    I thought the burrows beak was kinda weak. Hartley starting the dancing bears is bush, Torts going all Lenonidas is just nuts, but to me it crosses a line when you start beaking about people’s off-ice issues.

    • Marsh

      SOB was scratched several times during his time in Vancouver for staying out past curfew partying – that’s not an “off-ice issue”.

      I don’t think Burrows is accusing SOB of being an alcoholic or something (which wouldn’t be cool), just riding him about some poor choices he made when he was a teammate.

  • Marsh

    “I think teams get penalized when they play “differently” than expected.”

    That quote from Elliote Friedman makes my stomach turn. It explains the 2011 SCF so well. Boston has a storied Big Bad Bruins reputation and so they get away with it because that’s what’s expected of them. But if another team like the Canucks tries that stuff the refs shut it down right away and penalize them harshly. What a joke.

    And apparently this isn’t an unspoken thing because Elliote was able to put it in his column.

  • Marsh

    Tortorella’s actions and suspension are barely noteworthy.

    The most important thing is that, based on the last week of play, the Canucks bench is, at minimum, ten feet tall.

    Mark my words. The Canucks are about to crush teams on the way to their first Stanley Cup this spring…

  • Marsh


    I know a lot of people laugh, but I feel the exact same way as you. I don`t feel we would ever get a cup, without addressing the `soft`image our team has been labeled AND treated as. Bring in the torts era……..It could not have come any sooner. We can and will get a cup with Torts at the helm, and other teams will be paying the price, if not with losses, with blood.

  • Brent

    It is unfortunate that Torts went postal on the Flamers dressing room. I think what is most unfortunate about it is that instead of the media talking about what a butthead hartley is, the majority of the attention is on Torts. Which makes me wonder was he really going postal? Or was this a manufactured event to have his own “white towel” incident. Certainly it is going to serve to pull the team together, somewhat of a gretzkyelleran “everyone hates us” moment. It is certainly working for the majority of the fans, especially when the penalty is compared to Roy’s outburst earlier in the season, as many people have already mentioned.

    Lets see how the game against the Blackhawks goes.

    And who logged in under NM00’s moniker? Cause that ain’t him.

    • FlamesRule

      I know it’s early, but since the surprise has already already been ruined for Flames fans, enjoy the next 5 drafts and that dynamo Stajan. Do make a habit of coming back and making yourself look ridiculous though, it makes me feel about my team.

  • FlamesRule

    Judging by how some people didn’t understand what NM00 was saying, some people’s irony monitor is off today, I gather…

    I have no problem with the suspension.

    The hit to Hartley was light, I agree.

    I’m happy to move past this, and await the return of Torts. I knew this season was going to be entertaining.

  • DCR

    Burrows’ move was classless..but wouldn’t expect much more from any player in this organization right now. A once proud organization is now known around the league as a group of classless, whiners…and as that video clip shows it appears this is a well deserved label.

    Mocking a player regarding their off-ice issues is simply classless and embarrassing. Now it is pretty clear why Giordano punched at him…and at first I thought it was classless of Gio to do that…but now I think he shoulda hit him harder. If you are going to do crap like that you get what you get.

    As for Torts missing 6 games…seems to me the NHL just did the Canucks a favour…this team is going nowhere under Torts…in fact with Torts at the helm this team may be further away from a cup run than the Sabres!

    And as for Calgary starting its goons last game…well looks like Westgarth picked up a goal tonight…and anyone that has watched Flames games lately can tell you that guys like him, McGratten, and Bouma have been one of the Flames best lines lately…not saying much I know. Not sure that is really what Hartley was doing…but can see why the NHL couldn’t do much more with him…he simply can explain they were playing better hockey than his other lines and he was sending a message to his other players that they need to step up!

    • FlamesRule

      While the lines on what is a valid topic for trash talking are definitely hazy, I tend to agree with you about off-ice issues.

      That being said, what about situations like this where Burrows and SOB were teammates for a few years, and at that time the team was let down (repeatedly) by SOB’s well documented issues with drinking and partying it up the night before games?

      Seeing as how that got SOB into trouble here for his partying ways, and he hasn’t actually admitted to being an alcoholic (or at least hasn’t entered the NHL’s substance abuse program), I think the drinking gesture was fair game. Or at least if it was across the line, it wasn’t horrible.

      Totally different situation when you look at their history and context than random player A mocking random player B who has admitted being an alcoholic.

    • DCR

      The problem with the argument that Westgarth & McGrattan were starting to reward them for playing success is that when the puck dropped, they didn’t play.

      Bieksa went for the faceoff, Westgarth dropped the gloves and went for the fight.

      You would think that if Calgary had really intended to play hockey at that point, they would have contested the faceoff, and tried to play hockey. Their players did neither.

      The majority of the responsibility for the initial brawl belongs to Hartley and the Flames, and it was deliberate. On the other hand, Torts is responsible for his actions, and I think he did deserve discipline for them.

    • DCR

      Have any of you actually played or watched hockey before? It’s as if the Canucks (and Burrows in particular) have invented trash talking. That’s right, before Alex Burrows came around, nobody ever said anything about anyone’s off-ice behavior, antics, proclivities, obsessions, addictions, whatever. It’s called trash talking people. Seriously, when did the morality police come in to decide what is and is not within the bounds of needling one another? What about the tried and true traditions of racist insults used (especially against players with a drop of non-white blood and particularly any First Nations players — yeah, I’m sure they all loved being called “Chief”, and that was the best)? You think Reg Dunlop’s “She’s a lesbian!!!” routine in Slapshot was just an ECHL thing? Good god. Calm down, I’m sure there’s a lot worse out there than Burrows pretending to do lines or chug a beer.

      I find it funnier that the Canucks as a team seem to find O’Brien so alternately amusing and irritating, whether with Nashville, Colorado or Calgary.

  • DCR

    Fair all around. I was expecting a Torts suspension between 5-10 games. 6 is all right by me.

    I was expecting Hartley to get fined some low 5 figure sum. Check.

    I was expecting each organization to get some sort of token fine to pad the player’s assistance fund. I was wrong there.

    I was actually half expecting Malarchuk to get some sort of fine because it seems he blew a gasket too, but I wasn’t sure.

    Anyhoo, the whole affair is pretty ridiculous, but given the easy schedule coming up, I don’t think it will be too bad.

    As for our lovely Albertan friends . . .

    It would be nice to bash Edmonton tomorrow even without a head coach AND a first-line center. Totally possible, and our current circumstances will multiply the humiliation. Bonus points if it’s Kassian that scores the winning goal.

    And Calgary just signed Stajan to some sort of 4 year pact. Not the best move for their rebuild. They’ll be toiling for a while.

    I feel better now . . .