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

Tortorella hopes Sweden wins gold because Hamhuis, Luongo won’t play

Tom Sestito, John Tortorella

Vancouver Canucks coach, and Boston native, John Tortorella could’ve had his loyalties split in Sunday’s gold medal game between Canada and Sweden because of the number of Canucks players on both teams.

Instead, Torts sounded off about not having a full boat of players at Canucks practice and very much prefers one team over the other as Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun shares.

“I hope Sweden wins because I don’t think Hammer [Dan Hamhuis] is going to play judging from what’s happened and I don’t think Louie [Roberto Luongo] is going to play,” said Tortorella. “So I don’t give a [bleep] right now because they’re not playing. I just want them back here. I hope Danny [Sedin] scores two goals and [Alex] Edler gets three assists and Sweden wins so they come back feeling good about themselves because it’s going to help us. That’s all I’m concerned about right now.”

Tell us how you really feel, coach.

Dan Hamhuis has been in Canada’s lineup but not playing many, if any, minutes in games as the seventh defenseman. Roberto Luongo has been backing up Carey Price through most of the Olympic tournament. Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler, meanwhile, have been getting steady play and minutes with Sweden.

Despite the harsh words, the takeaway from this is simple: If guys aren’t going to play, Tortorella would rather have them with him in Vancouver doing workouts and practicing with the team. He just has a very colorful way of saying that is all.

After seventh straight loss, Tortorella takes the blame

John Tortorella, Brad Richardson, Tom Sestito

TORONTO — Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella wants you to point the finger at him when it comes to the team’s losing ways of late.

The Canucks lost their seventh straight game after dropping a 3-1 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Following the game, Tortorella owned up to the team’s recent slide and put the losses squarely on his and the coaching staff’s shoulders.

“It’s pretty obvious the coaching staff here has not done a good job teaching details of situational play,” Tortorella said. “Third period, wall play, underneath the puck – we just have not done a good enough job because our guys are just not consistent at it. It’s going to be a huge focus as we get through this break and get ready to play again.”

The Canucks went into the third period holding a 1-0 lead over the Leafs, but goals from Mason Raymond, Phil Kessel, and James van Riemsdyk put Toronto over the top.

“It’s the way it’s going but we can’t be in that situation,” Tortorella said. “We can’t let the momentum change in that third period the way it did. And that’s details. I need to take full responsibility for that. Obviously I have not taught that well enough because we continue to make the same mistakes in crucial times of the game. You guys may not see the little things that happen before goals, we do. That’s situational play and we have not been consistent enough with it.”

The Olympic break comes at an ideal time for the Canucks. Not only are they mired in a losing streak, but they’re without five regular players. Forwards Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli and defensemen Kevin Bieksa, Christopher Tanev, and Yannick Weber.

“Mentally and physically hopefully we’ll get some bodies back also,” Tortorella said about the Olympic break. “It was a dog’s breakfast as far as the [road] trip, three in a row losing them all. We’re in a spiral so it couldn’t come for a better time mentally and getting guys back also.”