Tom Sestito, John Tortorella

Is Tortorella’s system to blame for Canucks’ woes?


No longer just a great song you hear at Joe Louis Arena, “Don’t Stop Believing” has apparently become the mantra of the Vancouver Canucks.

To wit, here’s coach John Tortorella after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa in the Heritage Classic: “The only thing you can do from (general manager) Mike Gillis right on down to our team, we need to keep believing as an organization and take each and every day.”

And here’s winger Alex Burrows, still without a goal this season: “We’ve got to rely on our system, and keep believing that we’re doing a lot of good things. You’ve got to keep believing that your structure and your system is strong.”

It’s funny, because that’s the exact same message I heard from countless members of Team Canada in Sochi. When the goals weren’t going in, they said the only thing they could fall back on was the system, and they had to believe that it would eventually pay off.

You know how that ended. Mike Babcock’s puck-possession system was ultimately celebrated, along with the gold medal.

But — and this is the thing when it comes to the Canucks — what if the system is, you know, completely and utterly wrong?

We only ask, because, not long ago, Vancouver was one of most dynamic offensive teams in the NHL. Today, with largely the same core players, its offense ranks 27th, averaging a paltry 2.33 goals per game.

And back when the Canucks were piling up the points in the standings, Burrows and the Sedin twins formed one of the best, most entertaining lines in hockey. Today, that line is a shadow of itself, no disrespect to the shadow.

I asked Burrows if Tortorella’s system made it harder to do the things his line used to do so well.

“It’s a little different, that’s for sure,” Burrows said. “But we’ve got to make more plays.”

I asked him how the system was different.

“Well, I’m not going to comment, go down into it,” he said. “But we have to be better.”

I didn’t expect to hear a detailed breakdown of the system, or for Burrows to bash his coach’s game plan. Besides, the players do “have to be better,” regardless of the system.

But let’s face it, Tortorella was fired as coach of the Rangers for a reason. Actually, it was a few reasons, but the “style of play” he dictated was a big one, according to the guy who fired him.

“If you look at these playoff games (like the Stanley Cup Finals matchup) you’re gonna see tonight, the style that they play, I mean there’s not a hell of a lot of dump-ins,” Glen Sather said in June. “I mean, (if) you have to dump the puck in, you have to dump it. But there’s a lot of puck control and hanging onto the puck and moving the puck out, and there’s not stopping behind the net to gain control. There’s a lot of things that are done differently than what we were doing. So you have to look at the style of play. That had a lot to do with (the decision to fire Tortorella), too.”

And when the Canucks’ last coach, Alain Vigneault, was hired by the Rangers, it wasn’t a commitment to shot-blocking and collapsing in front of the goalie that Sather was trumpeting.

Tortorella said before the Heritage Classic that he was hoping the quasi-outdoor experience might help jump-start his “big guys” (translation: Sedins and Burrows) offensively.

“I think some of our guys need to offensively allow themselves to play some shinny hockey,” he said. “Just let them play. Maybe this will help us. I don’t know.”

Of course, he also said his “biggest concern” was “staying with our structure.” Which doesn’t exactly translate to, “Just let them play.”

But hey, don’t stop believing.

Related: Apparently Glen Sather and Mike Gillis don’t see the game evolving the same way

Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

Ray Emery
Leave a comment

Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.

Goalie nods: Reimer makes first start of the season

James Reimer
Leave a comment

James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.

“I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.

Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.

Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.


Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.

Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.

Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.

Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.

Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.

-Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.

Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

-The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.

Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

-The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.

-The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.