John Tortorella

Some thoughts on Torts, who was never a good idea for Vancouver


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.


Linden wants new Canucks GM by end of May

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

Linden thinks Torts misused the Sedins

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?