The word “dinosaur” is often used to describe John Tortorella.
That’s just what happens when you call it “the Corsi and the Fenwick” while railing against hockey’s new statistics.
But the way things are developing this season in Columbus, “dinosaur” might be an unfair label, because Tortorella has clearly learned a few things from his failures.
Take his new approach to moving the puck:
Unless the Blue Jackets are making a line change, Tortorella wants his defensemen to minimize their passes back and forth. Instead, he wants them to get the puck up to the forwards as quickly as possible. Don’t wait for the other team to get set defensively. Attack. Now.
“To me, it’s the process of the past couple of years and where the league has gone,” Tortorella said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “We need (the defensemen) to be part of our quickness. I’ll say it again, I think we’ve added leg speed, but I think we have added mental quickness, too, and (reducing the D-to-D pass) is part of the mental quickness.”
As long-time PHT readers will know, this blog was an ardent critic of Tortorella’s during his one disastrous year as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
In fact, we once wrote specifically about all the D-to-D passes that the Canucks defensemen were making:
Under Tortorella, getting the puck up to the forwards as soon as possible doesn’t seem to be a priority.
The result is defensemen holding on to the puck for what seems like forever — often being forced to circle back, or pass it back and forth with their partner — and no chance of a dangerous transition.
The result is an offense that ranks 28th in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets’ offense currently ranks second in the NHL, averaging 3.19 goals per game.
Of course, Tortorella only had to watch the way his old colleague, Mike Sullivan, had the Pittsburgh Penguins moving the puck last season to see how effective it can be.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the San Jose Sharks never managed to get their forecheck going against the Penguins, mostly because the puck was gone before they got there.
In today’s NHL, speed kills more than ever.
And the fastest moving object on the ice is the puck.