John Tortorella got fired today in Vancouver. I’ve written a lot about Torts and the Canucks, so here are a few thoughts on his dismissal:
— Tortorella was a bad hire. Simple as that. Back in September, PHT did a season preview Q&A where one of the questions was, “True or false: John Tortorella’s first season as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks will be successful.” I answered, “False. The Torts hiring reminds me of the time the Capitals tried to change their style. I think the entire Canucks organization is a bit lost right now.” Fast forward to the present and Mike Gillis is gone, too. (And George McPhee, for that matter.)
— I never bought the speculation (which seemed to morph into fact) that Gillis didn’t want Torts, and that it was a pure ownership hire. Frankly, I think Canucks management was furious with the players after the embarrassing San Jose sweep last year, and I think Torts came in and told a rattled Gillis what he wanted to hear — that he could put the swagger back into a veteran group that suffered a severe loss in confidence after the 2011 Cup final, that he could turn a young, raw talent like Zack Kassian into the type of “heavy” player that’s needed to beat the Bruins and Kings of the world, that he could give the Canucks the “bite” that everyone seemed to think they lacked, and probably a bunch of other stuff that convinced Gillis to sign off on a hire that, based on his core “fundamentals and principles,” made absolutely zero sense.
— The 2013-14 Canucks were a terrible team to watch from an entertainment perspective, and it’s no surprise that Trevor Linden wrote in his note to season-ticket holders that he was “committed to making it exciting to watch Canucks games throughout the season.” For the prices Vancouver fans pay to get into Rogers Arena, they want to be entertained. And rightly so. The Pavel Bure years. The West Coast Express years. The years the Sedins were making dazzling plays and capturing scoring titles. Those were the teams that truly captivated the city. Fans shouldn’t feel bad about demanding exciting, up-tempo hockey.
— I’ll give Tortorella this: he got the Canucks to stick up for each other, and they didn’t seem to embellish as much as they did under Alain Vigneault. Personally, I like teams that take a no-nonsense approach. That said, those are such minor things in the overall picture. Look, the Canucks under AV were guilty of diving, yes. But they were also guilty of having a really good power play. The embellishing was intentional. They enjoyed getting under their opponents’ skin, and it worked. People called them arrogant, because, well, they were pretty damn arrogant. Obviously, not everyone liked the way they went about their business (to steal a phrase from Torts), but if you ask Mark Recchi, “That’s what made them successful, because they believed in what they were doing.”
— At times, it seemed like Tortorella treated the Canucks like they had no idea how to win. Just a lot of “we still have a lot to learn about…” and “I still need to teach them about…” type of comments. I wonder if the Canuck veterans picked up on that. Not to suggest there was no room for learning, but it’s not like he was taking over the Oilers. This was a very good team for a number of years. Sure, they played in an easy division, but come on, you don’t win back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies and get within a game of winning the Cup because you’re in an easy division.
Anyway, I’m not convinced Tortorella’s done as an NHL head coach. I could see him having success with a young team with more impressionable, energetic players, but he wasn’t the right fit for the Canucks.
We’ll see how the next guy does.