Before the regular season begins, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about John Tortorella one last time. I feel like I never gave him a proper send off, and I wanted to make sure I gave one of the greatest coaches in Canucks history his just due.
Although our time together was short, John had quite an impact on the city of Vancouver. I remember his hiring like it was yesterday… (read more past the jump)
– Alain Vigneault ends another season with a disastrous first round. Drance is angrily defending AV and attempts to punch me in the face for saying “I would be ok with a new coach.”
– Alain Vigneault actually gets fired. I take a day off work to recover from the fact the Canucks management team made their biggest move since they traded for Victor Oreskovich.
– Rumors begin to swirl that the Canucks have high interest in John Tortorella. I laugh it off due to the fact it seems like the worst idea in the world.
– Rumors swirl that John Tortorella was seen at the Vancouver airport. I laugh this off because if Peter Forsberg has taught me anything, it’s that “airport rumors” are one of the worst evils in this world, right beside Mark Messier and flat pop.
– Rumors swirl that John Tortorella is giving a press conference about being excited to be named the new coach of the Vancouver Canucks. I laugh this off before openly sobbing because it’s at this point I realize he is actually the new coach of the Canucks.
– I then remember watching in awe as Mike Gillis proceeded to pretend this was totally his idea, and thought it was the greatest thing ever. His lips said yes, but his eyes looked like he was dead inside.
This picture is awesome because Francesco Aquilini is truly the only one happy in it. Look at him, he’s positively beaming, it’s as if he finally got the GI Joe he wanted for Christmas. Tortorella looks like’s he’s already planning his driving time from Point Roberts to Rogers Arena, and Gillis is just wondering what all went wrong to lead to this moment.
Then a funny thing happened. Somehow John Tortorella convinced me through the pre-season that he was actually a good hire. He talked a big game, and using a variety of Jedi mind tricks and cheesy metaphors (blocking shots makes the guys on the bench grow taller!), Torts actually came across as a guy who had a plan to string together one last hurrah for the spirit of that 2011 team. The Canucks burst out of the gate and were actually winning games! Who knew Torts was the right guy for the job!
Before long, of course, Torts buried the team with a variety of awful decisions (starting Eddie Lack in the Winter Classic, playing the Sedins too much, riding Eddie too hard, valuing good dump ins over puck possession, the list goes on and on) and the Canucks ended up with one of their worst seasons of all time.
So how, after all of that, do I consider Torts one of the greatest coaches you ask? Quite simply, because he was the ultimate palate cleanser for the team.
Think about it: the Canucks still had that specter of 2011 hanging over their shoulders, even three years removed from their glorious run to the Finals. People still saw the core of the team and simply wondered when the next Finals would be, and anything less than that would be a hideous disappointment. Even after the two first round disasters, many people in Vancouver clung to the idea that a tweak here or there would turn things around for ol’ Vancouver.
By hiring Tortorella, they brought in a man who did such a god awful job it’s almost impossible to believe he didn’t do it in purpose. Let’s quickly run through his time in Vancouver:
– Didn’t talk to Alex Burrows until December
– Routinely talked about not knowing who anybody on the team was for the first month of the season (which at first seemed like refreshing honesty, but slowly turned into the horrifying thought that he actually never learned who anybody ever was)
– Never talked to the farm team organization
– Wasn’t a fan of practicing, and apparently has a history of this:
– Didn’t show up for many game day skates (to be fair, border traffic can be quite the hassle)
– Watched some pre-season games from the press box to get a different view of the game
– The Canucks had a bed installed in his office in the hopes of making him actually do his job (this one blows me away the most. It would be like my office buying me a pillow so I could put my head down at my desk and take a nap instead of skipping work to stay at home)
– Randomly accused David Booth of being late for meetings he was early for. This is where it hits Mr. Burns levels of insanity, whereby I fully expected to hear stories about Torts being super angry at Booth for not shaving his sideburns.
– Refused to watch video of upcoming opponents, which is on par with not wanting to yawn because your spirit might escape your body.
Basically, John Tortorella did such a bad job that anybody by comparison was going to look better the next season. The very fact new coach Willie Desjardins actually spoke to Alex Burrows a week or two into taking the job already had people excited. “Holy crap, the coach knows how to use a phone!” people exclaimed!
That’s how low Torts set the bar. He made people excited about a coach with basic manners.
Sure, in the short term, it hurt Vancouver, most noticeably in the ticket sales area. But you can already notice a difference in the atmosphere at Rogers Arena. Last year it took six months before a “Go Canucks Go” chant broke out at the arena. This year, in pre-season, there were already chants and more noise than we saw all last season. A player simply doing a nice deke to break into the offensive zone is now seen as a beautiful treasure of a play, due to unorganized system the Canucks used last year. The fact that Chris Tanev isn’t out on the ice trying to block double digits in shots every night is exciting to watch.
This is why Tortorella was the perfect man for the job last season. The Canucks needed a way to lower expectations, and to remind people that simply making the playoffs isn’t such a bad thing. Torts reminded people of that and more, when he tanked an entire season in glorious fashion.
So to that, I tip my hat to John Tortorella. May your drives from Point Roberts be quick, and your naps in your future office bed be plentiful.