John Tortorella’s short tenure apparently consisted of some weird things


“Why didn’t you ever call, John?”

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:

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“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.  

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“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!

    • argoleas

      This team was never going to be terrible enough for a 6th Overall draft pick without a perfect storm of dysfunction. All hail the hockey goods, who bless us as they curse us.

  • I don’t usually make these kinds of statements about people I’ve never met, but Torts really seems like he doesn’t have much respect for other people. These stories, some of the stories out of New York, plus the Luongo business – seems like he’s a guy who doesn’t give much thought at all to other people.

    The lack of practice, lack of communication with the farm team, and the slew of injuries certainly helps explain the team falling apart in the new year.

    • Fred-65

      Yes, we’ll just blame the last 4 decades of Canuck failures on a coach who was here for one year. God forbid if anyone else like the players were here stinking it up for years and years get blamed.

      There are always two sides of any story. We don;t know what happened between torts and Booth in the days leading up to the so called incident. Nor do we know what happened between Torts and Burrows.

      Gary Mason joined Don Taylor…that should sound alarm bells right there. Don Taylor is and has always been a mouth piece and apologist for the Canucks. Just take a look at him in the nightly sports cap. The shill never fails to mention how it’s never the goalies fault, or so and so can’t be faulted. Not once do you ever hear Taylor make an objective opinion o the Nucks. Not to mention his ” scores like a obscure ex player blah blah schtick is just sad and pathetic.

      Don Taylor would do very well as a US media shill. As a “sports caster” he doesn’t even bother hiding his shilling. Just like Galigurl and Botchfart.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Gotta say that I am not surprised. I bet this is only 1/16 of the crap that went on with Torts. He was a disaster from the moment Aquilini hired him. Cost Gillis his job. Sent Luongo packing earlier than expected. Made Weise crawl away and might have cost us Kesler.

    Keenan era_v2

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      -Cost Gillis his job. Sent Luongo packing earlier than expected.-

      Are you serious? For getting rid of Gillis and an old cow with a too big contract you should get on your knees and thank Torts.

      Gillis was no more than the simpson’s monorail salesman who showed up to dupe all the rubes in Springfield into paying for some scam momorail and Luongo is well, how can I this….when a guy complains and says his multi million dollar over paid contract “sucks”…there really isn’t much left to say about such a “classy” guy Luongo is.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I remember hearing that he didn’t want to attend team practices. That’s when my warning klaxons started going off.

    Reading this article, my impression is that if even a one of the stories is true, I’d say it’d be enough evidence accumulated to be a justified firing. Only time will tell, of course.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        Hah! Great point.

        I’ve noticed that the words, “Accountable,” and “Responsible,” get bandied about a lot by the team’s top players during interviews. Having seen and heard their usage of these words, I’ve come to realize that most of them don’t actually understand the definition of the words that they’re using.

        How accountable do you truly feel if you won’t take the initiative to approach management and tell them you’ll waive your NTC? Did you feel responsible enough to go to the front office hat in hand and tell them you’ll take a pay cut due to your poor performance to help the team?

        No. You won’t see that.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          The truth is in a world of multi million dollar contracts, the players have little to be fearful of. The only thing that would corral players into what you want them to be accountable for is this-

          – First of all, do not and I repeat do not give out any NTC unless you have it on pretty damn good authority that the players you are giving NTCs to are like a Kane and Toews. And no NTC longer than a few years because athletes do age.

          – Ice time and trade to a crap team. You need an environment where players are afraid of being dealt or losing ice time or their jobs. As far as I’m concerned, you could have put in the entire farm team and the result would still be exactly the same, no playoffs and even a higher draft pick.

          – expectations. We should expect players to improve. God knows how even in the world of tennis, if you don;t improve you will never win any tournaments, period. Players that don;t improve or won’t improve, lose and that’s all there is to it. If a player over a period of time doesn’t improve, either it’s the development system’s fault or it’s the players. Either way, change the system or get rid of the dead weight.

          – Objectivity. there’s no need to base the future on hope. Rome was not built on hope, it was built on work. If players don’t or can’t do what is asked of them, then they need to know that they can be replaced. If a player has a whiny spoiled attitude about it then they shouldn’t be with the club to begin with. Spoiled self entitled players never amount to anything anyways so there’s no point in keeping losers…just no point, and that’s the whole point.

          The Canucks new slogan should be ” No play? No pay!”

          • BuffaloBillsOfHockey


            The Kings don’t give out NTCs. That seems to be working out OK for them. All of the flexibility and none of the pain when it comes to trades. No play, no pay, indeed. You want an iron clad guarantee you won’t be traded? It’s called your performance.

            Regarding expectations and objectivity, the former needs to be implemented a lot more and there currently isn’t much of the latter in stock, obviously. Handing out NTCs and raises like candy in what could best be described as a poor season is a questionable business decision.

            I’ll get really concerned if they come out with an announcement declaring that they’re going to retire the numbers of everyone who participated in the 2013-2014 campaign.

  • islander

    “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.”

    And what’s wrong with that? Burrows does not show up most nights. And if you add up the numbers, most of his time here has been a waste of money. Besides the fluke goal on a rolling puck against the Hawks in OT 7th game, what else has he done to warrant the millions he gets. they call Burrows a “streaky” player. If streaky means does not score most of the time, then yes, he’s streaky. Most teams would just call that plain old useless.

    Not to mention his biting gave the Bruins something to use against them in the finals. Burrows sure made good money last year for doing absolutely nothing. Imagine that, players getting paid to be useless on the Canucks…how shocking and new.

  • islander

    These stories make things a lot more clear. I thought Torts was misunderstood and a throw back that couldn’t fit into today’s touchy freely game, but Wow…

    This stuff makes the Calgary fiasco, Sestitos rise to top PP unit and the non existent 4th line look like absent mindedness.

    He completely alienated players in NYC and you see the effects of having a stable force behind the bench this year. If anything the Rangers look like they are having fun. I’m a teacher in the stars and one thing I always try and remember is that I control what kind of day my class will have. If I’m in a bad mood or have a head ache, my class won’t be fun it will be tense and the kids will be on oins and needles.
    Coaches are no different. Imagine Burr breaking his ankle and jaw and feeling like the head guy was against him. Irrational is the least of the words that come to mind. Also, I read he lived in Port Roberts across the border?? Why? Why the longer drive to Rogers? He has been a head coach since the early 2000’s you can afford to live closer to the facility. Did he live in West Pennsylvania when he coached the Rangers?

    Worst of all is he was doing exactly what it looked like on the ice. He didn’t care who he was coaching, he had a system and he was going to jam a system down the players throat. A coaches first job is to put your players in a position to succeed. Failure on every level.
    Too bad for the fans, but for the players awful…. Your career in the NHL is finite and to waste an entire year under a Dolt like that has to be frustrating. Hopefully the right GM will pick the right coach

  • islander

    Torts was not the coach for Vancouver this year, but I don’t think he can be blamed for the wasted season, not completely. That’s a more complicated story, and some of it just looks like bad luck with injuries and PDO. But not practicing the PP when the players want to, and it’s failing?! Playing Sestito 10+ mins?! I don’t have any coaching experience, but from the outside, those things don’t seem very wise. He definitely doesn’t sound like Gillis’ guy either, since Gillis wanted someone who thought analytically rather than about grititude (remember AV always talked about the “high percentage play”).

    Anyone know the story of how Kesler was stripped of his A?

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      “He definitely doesn’t sound like Gillis’ guy either, since Gillis wanted someone who thought analytically rather than about grititude”

      On what are you basing this?

      Go back to last summer’s presser introducing Torts.

      Gillis spoke about the need to start integrating young players into the (aging) lineup and that Torts gave young players a chance.

      There is zero evidence that Torts wasn’t Gillis’ #1 choice for the middle manager job.

      And if Torts was, in fact, forced upon Gillis, why wasn’t he forced upon Trevor…

      • argoleas

        I would say no evidence one way or the other. Owners do make mistakes, and perhaps Aquilini is one that owns up to his and decided he needed to completely clean slate. Perhaps when hiring Linden, one stipulation was that Linden would in fact not have Torts forced on him. Good start for Linden in my view. I wonder if Torts will coach in the league ever again.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          I agree there is no evidence one way or the other.

          But I’d say the simplest explanation is that Gillis was allowed to hire/retain his coaches (AV & Torts) at his discretion and Trevor has the same autonomy.

          Otherwise we may as well attribute acquiring Ehrhoff & Lukowich’s sunk cost of a contract as Aquillini’s intervention as well…

          • argoleas

            Sure, that is fair. All water under the bridge…. except for all that NTC rubble.

            What irks me the most is that Green looks like a good coach in the making in Utica. The allegation that he and Torts did not communicate is very troublesome.

          • argoleas

            To be fair, did Utica have anything to offer Vancouver aside from replacement players all year?

            Torts had plenty of issues to worry about on Vancouver’s paper mache roster without making weekly phone calls to Green…

        • argoleas

          Too bad for Linden is that when the slate has been wiped out clean, there’s no one to blame for the mess he’s going to create. A smart man would have kept Torts so that there would be a bus victim should things go wrong. but Linden was never very smart…

      • andyg

        The biggest question I had about the whole hire has just been answered. It seems that Torts was never fully endorsed by GMMG. These are the actions of a head coach who understands that he had the full endorsement of ownership, and that the GM was a lame duck. How else would you explain the lack of accountability and disregard of authority that was displayed by one ex-Coach?

        As to the question of why Torts wasn’t forced upon Trevor? Thousands of empty seats would kind of do that to a money hungry owner….

  • argoleas


    I agree with you that there is no clear statement, which is why I carefully wrote “doesn’t sound like” rather than “I know for a fact that…”.

    I’m mostly inferring from things other than the presser: when he was hired, Torts stated he knew nothing about analytics, called himself a neanderthal (or something like that), while during AV’s time, everyone talked about “high percentage plays” and other terms from hockey analytics (remember Henrik during the 2011 playoffs often sounded arrogant because it). It is also well-known that Gillis used analytics, referring to them in interviews several times, and that was one thing that seemed to endear AV to him. Also, several of the beat reporters last year said that Stevens was the lead candidate, and then Torts kept getting more attention and interviews. Torts even complained mildly that the interview process involved breaking down lots of video, and that the interviews were “grueling” (or some word like that). And many of those same beat reporters later stated that it seems the Aquilinis were the ones who pushed Torts. None backed down despite the vapid threat of liable suits. Gillis pretty clearly distanced himself from the hiring in his final interview as the GM.

    As for why Linden was allowed to fire him: well, Linden came in after the disaster, not before.

    I don’t agree that stating that there were times that the owners intervened more means that we can therefore say that every move has the owners’ marks. (No one knowledgeable has ever suggested that the Ballard and Booth trades involved the owners initiative, for example. In fact those were probably made at the height of Gillis’ leeway, after the SCF appearance.) But on the Ehrhoff trade, I do remember one of the beat reporters stating that Gillis did get approval for taking on the Lukowich contract, and that the owners weren’t that thrilled. It’s clearly a complicated relationship, that every GM has to deal with as part of the job, if nothing else than when they have to explain the disappointment of not making the playoffs or exiting early.

    No one knows why Kesler was stripped of his “A”?

  • argoleas

    “There is zero evidence that Torts wasn’t Gillis’ #1 choice”

    There is no direct dispositive evidence, there is circumstantial evidence that he was ownership’s choice. As outsiders we rarely get direct evidence, just hearsay and rumours. It is still evidence nonetheless.

    • argoleas

      Even if ownership favoured Torts, is there a single “insider” out there who has said, for example, Stevens (or another candidate) was Gillis’ #1 choice and Aquillini forced Torts onto Gillis over his objections?

  • argoleas

    Fair enough NM00. I just didn’t like the absolutism, as there is ‘some’ evidence to suggest Torts was ownership’s #1, if not Gillis’.

    Whether Gillis was opposed to the hire, I don’t know. He may have started chasing moving goal posts (“grititude”) against his earlier, and better, instincts (as he alluded in his statement a few weeks before being fired), and fully supported the Torts hire.

    I do believe that ownership was very supportive of hiring Torts. Just a hunch that ownership felt the team had become too much of a “country club” and the players, who they were paying many millions, needed an asskicker for proper motivation.

    FWIW, I supported the Torts hire initially, despite some clear red flags regarding his dinosaur ways. Not that Torts was given much to work with, but I think its clear he was not the antidote for the team’s woes.

  • The Benevolent Orca

    At one point this season I stood firmly behind this man. I thought he was a much more open minded hard working professional.

    In this case, I was severely wrong!

    Good riddance and good job to Linden for cutting out the cancer.

    I think a question that should be investigated now is who actually pursued Torts, Gillis or Ownership? I’m hoping Gillis, in which case we can truly begin to move forward and rebuild.

  • andyg

    No one really knows for sure what went on. One thing that can’t be denied is that this was a bizarre year on and off the ice.( 6th pick,thanks Torts)

    I will not miss Torts or his boring style of hockey at all.

    Gm and coach candidates are thinning out fast so lets hope Linden doesn’t drag his feet to long.

  • andyg


    Fully agree that Torts isn’t the sole reason for the failures this season (as I stated in my original post). (Of course, I don’t completely buy the Gillis narrative either, but we’ll disagree there.) Maybe practicing the PP wasn’t an antidote…but putting Sestito out there?

    To answer your question to someone else, I think Botchford has pretty much said that Stevens was Gillis’ no. 1, and Torts’ candidacy was pushed by ownership (meaning Torts *was* on Gillis’ radar). A couple of others have also written similar things.

  • andyg

    Two thoughts:

    1) And THIS is the guy that called David Booth a ‘weird dude’?

    2) Do you think Canucks management sat down last season and said “You know what the 2010-2011 Canucks were? Arrogant. Alain’s been too humble. We need a more assertive jerk to lead from the top.” Because it seems to have worked out that way…

  • Fred-65

    As I understand Torts lived in Pts Roberts for tax reason….fair enough so did Messier..but it impacted in as much as He didn’t like the commute and didn’t like to run the practises or or do his due diligence in his office doing pre game stuff either. He left the day to day stuff to Sullivan who lets be honest other teams are not crawling over one another to give him a head coaches job. Every time I watched a game Torts and Sullivan were engrossed with one another and Gulutzan was at the other end of the bench. The PP was a shambles that might have been the difference between making the play-offs and not.

    If this is the standard JT sets it’ll be a long time before he gets his next gig IMO.

    Very unprofessional especally when you think of the money he made