All sorts of peculiar things tend to happen over the course of an 82-game season involving any team, considering all of the different personalities and egos that are asked to coexist together for months on end. Things are said, mental notes are taken, but ultimately a lot of what happens behind closed doors in the locker room stays there in order to keep things from really blowing up altogether.
Until of course one of those personalities is on their way out; then, some of the more noteworthy things – that would surely have been useful to know as they happened in real-time, but whatever – are finally released to the public as guys feel more comfortable opening up, no longer being held back by the fear of the potential consequences linked to the beans they’re spilling.
We’re seeing that in full effect over in Pittsburgh, and we’ve become all too familiar with it here in Vancouver for weeks (months?) now. It’s something of a smear campaign, really, but it’s entertaining and enlightening nonetheless.
Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail joined Don Taylor and Barry MacDonald on the Team1040 this afternoon, and dropped some bombshells regarding the John Tortorella Era that are most definitely worth reiterating. Adding two and two together, there are some things that are starting to make a lot more sense..
Mason started off by prefacing that the following were “some of the things that have surfaced over the past couple of weeks about some of the issues that sounded alarms about Tortorella”, before polishing off his shovel and making sure to add some extra dirt atop of the former Canucks coach’s grave for good measure:
“I gather that at some point in the season Tortorella was trying to put pressure on Mike Gillis to have ownership to buy Alex Burrows’ contract out. He was that set against this guy as a player, didn’t see any future in this guy. He wanted management and ownership to consider buying him out. I don’t know if he [Burrows] was aware of it, but if anything it raised eyebrows because Alex Burrows has been a consistent player for this organization.”
There’s no sugarcoating Burrows’ season from hell, putting everything any trials and tribulations his teammates may’ve had to shame. He got injured during the first game of the season, and shortly after coming back from 3+ weeks on the shelf, he broke his jaw. Due in large part to this, 661 players scored a goal in an NHL game this season before he finally did; he finished the year with a measly 5 goals, all of which came during a 3-game span between March 12th and 17th.
Combining all of that with the reality that Burrows is now a 33-year old that’s due $4.5 million for each of the next three season, and Tortorella’s reported request is hardly egregious. Still, it’s worth mentioning that Burrows saw his PDO take a catacylsmic tumble down from 103.7 (elevated, but not too far off from what he’d been posting for years) to 95.0 (grossly suppressed). The team was shooting 4.57% with him on the ice at 5v5, and the chances of that repeating itself next season seem slim to none.
His other underlying numbers seemed to stay relatively stable, and if some of the percentages begin to normalize back in his favour, he could very conceivably get back into the 20-25 goal range next season. Unless he has (/will suddenly) experiences a significant decline in skills, it sure seems like a sucker’s bet to give up on him at this point knowing that you’ve still got to pay someone else to replace him in the lineup.
Overall it strikes me as rather curious that a newly incoming coach would jump to such a drastic conclusion on a guy so entrenched in an organization prior to his arrival, but then again I’m pretty sure that Tortorella doesn’t have the slightest clue what “PDO” is, and a common theme in this interview is that he had absolutely no tact when it came to handling his assets.
“Another thing that I’ve learned is that the players were unhappy about the amount of practice that the team and Tortorella were conducting. Players didn’t think that they practiced enough, and that Tortorella took practice seriously enough. Tortorella has some different views than a whole bunch of things, like practicing the power play. One of the things that he did that struck people as very odd was that he didn’t watch any video tape of the team that they were going to be facing.”
This isn’t an overly surprising revelation, given that David Ebner was writing about it all the way back on January 9th. Still, it’s the perfect microcosm of everything that was wrong with Tortorella’s tenure in Vancouver. He was set in his old ways, reluctant to adapt to the roster he had in front of him, presumably because he’s been successful in the past and has a Stanley Cup ring so why should he, right?
The Canucks were 26th in power play efficiency, and 29th in conversion percentage in the shootout. It’s impossible to say how much of an impact actually practicing going through the motions has on the latter (after all, talent rules supreme in the skills competition) but I imagine it wouldn’t have hurt, and they left a large chunk of points on the table because Tortorella’s stubborness.
“His association with Travis Green, the coach in Utica. So here is the coach of the Vancouver Canucks and you have the coach of the farm team.. you’d think that the lines of communication would be constant and always open, and that they’d be communicating about who is playing well and who is doing what. The farm team should be kind of a mirror image of whatever system the big club is playing. John Tortorella did not have one single conversation with Travis Green all season. Not one.”
Poor Travis Green, who by all accounts did a fine job in his first season as a professional coach, and has a bright future behind the bench. Beyond that, he would’ve seemingly been a good ally for Tortorella to have considering the knowledge he had on numerous guys the Canucks were forced to call up because of injuries to their main roster. Forget the common courtesy component of it; this just reeks of incompetence and negligence, more than anything else.
Anyways, this nugget ties into the one above it, as both are something that Rumoured Coaching Candidate Dan Bylsma seems to excel at. Sean Gentille, who has some well-rounded thoughts on the coach, spoke with Cam and I about him on a podcast we recorded earlier.
“There’s a David Booth story, too. There was a team meeting in the morning and David Booth showed up five minutes before the meeting was supposed to start, I guess maybe Tortorella didn’t see him or whatever. The meeting starts and Tortorella lights into David Booth for being late, and Booth says “wait a minute I was here five minutes early.” I guess they got into bit of a shouting match, and the players were like “what the hell is going on here?” because they knew that Booth was early.
So I guess there were these things that were happening that were all odd and unusual that are now coming to the surface, showing that there were problems there with Tortorella and the way that he coached, the arrangements he had with the others around him..”
A perfect bit of comedic relief to cap this all off, I say. Who doesn’t like a good ol’ fashioned David Booth story!