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Tortorella: ‘We need to change this hockey team’

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It’s not Eddie Lack’s fault that the Vancouver Canucks dropped their fourth game in a row (and five of their last six) via a 2-0 loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, but he was frustrated nonetheless.

“We can’t buy a win right now,” Lack said. “I’m trying to do my job and keep us in every game. It’s tough.”

Head coach John Tortorella praised Lack and David Booth after the defeat, but aside from that, he was as glum about his team on Monday night as he was earlier in the day.

“We need to change this hockey team,” Tortorella said. “We were a slow team. Lack of offence. This really worries me.”

Does that mean Torts might want changes that extend beyond acquiring Raphael Diaz? That remains to be seen, but Vancouver needs to find some way out of this funk or a playoff berth could slip through their fingers.

Tortorella returns, says Canucks are ‘off the rails’

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Canucks head coach John Tortorella will return from his 15-day suspension to take on Detroit tonight and, to hear him explain it, he’s returning to a team that’s lost its way.

“We’re off the rails on a lot of different aspects,” Tortorella said of his team, which went 2-4-0 in his absence. “Every aspect of our game is off. This team can and will play the right way.”

Tortorella, who’s been away from the team since going after Calgary coach Bob Hartley on Jan. 18, was apologetic on Monday, saying he “embarrassed” his family and the organization, adding his suspension came at a time then the Canucks probably needed him most.

“I apologize first and foremost to the players, to the organization and to the league. It hasn’t been a great two weeks,” he said. “I didn’t help matters for this team and we’re in a tough spot right now. It’s up to me to do my job and get this team back.”

The Canucks won just once in regulation during Tortorella’s absence — a 2-1 victory in Edmonton — and also beat Phoenix in OT. But his time away was largely marked by defeats (to Nashville, Edmonton, Chicago and Winnipeg) and an inability to score goals. Vancouver had just 15 over the six games, five coming in one outing against the Coyotes.

Tortorella says there are many things for his players to deal with, and they’ll start with what’s between their ears.

“We had meetings this morning, we have a long list of things we need to improve at,” he said. “We need to start over on the mental side.”

Torts reform: NHL suspends Tortorella 15 days — six games — for antics vs. Calgary

Referees get in the way of Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella as he screams at the Calgary Flames bench during first period NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia Saturday Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
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Vancouver head coach John Tortorella has been suspended 15 days — covering six regular season games — for his actions during Saturday’s game against the Flames, the league announced on Monday.

“Mr. Tortorella’s actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the League,” said NHL hockey ops VP Colin Campbell in a statement. “Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.”

Tortorella’s suspension is retroactive to Jan. 19 and runs through Feb. 2. According to the NHL, he is “not permitted to have any interaction with his club prior to, during or after games.” He will miss games against Edmonton, Nashville, Phoenix, Edmonton (again), Chicago and Winnipeg, eligible to return for a Feb. 3 date against Detroit.

The Canucks and GM Mike Gillis issued the following statement in response:

“We respect the decision made by the National Hockey League today to suspend John Tortorella for 15 days from Sunday, with no contact with the team for six games. 

“We would also like to acknowledge our organization’s full support for John and we look forward to having him back behind the bench soon.”

It’s worth noting this is the second time Tortorella’s been suspended by the league. He served a one-game ban during the 2009 playoffs for throwing a water bottle at a fan.

This latest incident occurred during the first intermission of a wild game, which began with a line brawl two seconds into the contest and culminated with Tortorella trying to go after Flames head coach Bob Hartley between periods — this after Tortorella spent much of the first yelling at Hartley from the bench.

There were 150 penalty minutes assessed to both sides (81 to Calgary, 69 to Vancouver) by the time the contest was less than five minutes old.

“I’m not proud of it,” Tortorella said afterward.

The crux of the issue was with Hartley’s player selection to start Saturday’s game — putting out Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan — and Tortorella feeling the need to respond (by starting NHL penalty minutes leader Tom Sestito.)

Earlier today, a report from The Province claimed Westgarth was sent out to start the game to “make something happen.” If true, that would contradict the story that Hartley told after the game regarding his choice of starting players.

“Those guys are playing well for us,” Hartley said of Westgarth, McGrattand and company. “They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”

Hartley was fined $25,000 for his actions.

Report: NHL will hold in-person meeting with Tortorella

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The NHL isn’t just holding a hearing with Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella, it will happen in person, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

As Dreger notes, that opens the door for a more substantial fine and/or suspension for Tortorella, who inspired this confrontation in front of the Calgary Flames locker room on Saturday:

Tortorella was open about the line brawl that began last night’s Canucks – Flames game, but didn’t address the hallway altercation in his press conference after the win:

Today’s earlier PHT post points out one of the few examples of what you might call precedent for what happened, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted that Montreal’s Shayne Corson sat out five games for attempting to confront Ed Jovanovski in Vancouver’s locker room back in 1999.

Of course, that’s a player doing it, not a coach. On the other hand, the league’s player safety process has changed, so Brendan Shanahan could likely argue that such a comparison is largely irrelevant.

The two teams racked up more than 200 penalty minutes in the game, which the Canucks won 3-2 via a shootout. Vancouver’s next contest is a road match against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, so the league will have some (but not a lot) of time to mull over his punishment.

Report: Tortorella expected to have a hearing Monday

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The NHL appears to have taken exception to John Tortorella’s actions during Saturday night’s contests. Following a game-opening line brawl that left him visibly angry, he went to the Flames dressing room during the first intermission to continue the argument:

That appears to have crossed a line as he will probably have a hearing Monday, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

During his postgame press conference, Tortorella was willing to talk about the circumstances that led to the brawl, but not his actions related to the dressing room incident.

“Please, don’t push me,” Tortorella responded when the questions about it persisted. “I’ll answer your questions, I’ve tried to be honest as possible with (what happened at the beginning of the game), but I’m not going to go into the other stuff.”

Related:

Video: Tortorella’s post-brawl presser

Flames-Canucks: 204 PIM, Henrik Sedin hurt, Vancouver wins in SO

Video: Canucks-Flames game kicks off with line brawl (Update: It got worse)