It’s amazing how a new coach, combined with a struggling power play and memories of past failures, can change the philosophy of a team.
To wit, the Vancouver Canucks, formerly a talented group of players that loved to draw penalties — sometimes by rather unsportsmanlike means, according to their detractors — because it could make an opponent pay on the scoreboard.
In the words of general manager Mike Gillis, from December of 2011: “There are some players who want to run around and hit guys from behind and that’s a league issue and it’s something the league is getting out of the game. If officials do their jobs, we will win games.”
But that was then, when the Canucks were coached by Alain Vigneault and had one of the best power plays in the NHL. Today, it’s John Tortorella behind the bench — a man with little trust in the officials’ ability to keep his opponents honest.
“If someone goes after the Sedins, other people have to step in,” said Tortorella in November. “That’s part of the game.”
And if that results in a penalty for the Canucks? “Guys are ready to step in, and we’d kill the penalty.”
And so we saw what happened last night in Los Angeles, when Tom Sestito challenged Jordan Nolan to a fight for taking a run at captain Henrik Sedin. When Nolan wasn’t willing to drop the gloves, Sestito started throwing punches anyway.
And what happened when Sestito’s actions led to a seven-minute Kings’ power play? Yep, you guessed it — Vancouver’s top-ranked penalty-killing unit killed it off.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, their 23rd-ranked power play went 0-for-4 and the Kings won the game, 1-0. But, per The Province, the quotes coming out of Vancouver’s dressing room were more evidence of the team’s change in “mindset,” a word Tortorella has used often since being hired in June.
“We didn’t really care about [going shorthanded],” said Henrik Sedin. “We did everything to stand up for each other and our goalie and for our teammates.
“We’ll kill those off any game.”
“A lot of guys stuck up for each other,” added Ryan Kesler, who earlier in the night had fought Kings captain Dustin Brown. Yes, the same Dustin Brown who ran over, and injured, Roberto Luongo in a previous meeting.
Will the Canucks’ new, take-things-into-their-own-hands philosophy pay off? That remains to be seen. They aren’t nearly as potent offensively as they were in 2010-11, the season they came a game away from winning the Stanley Cup, only to lose to the Boston Bruins, a team that — hey, do you think this is worth mentioning? — takes tremendous pride in its reputation for sticking up for each other.