‘I deserved to be fired’ in Vancouver, says Tortorella

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Largely out of the spotlight since being turfed by the Canucks last May, John Tortorella appeared on radio Friday morning and took full responsibility for his dismissal.

“I don’t think I did the job for our team in the second half [of the season] with our consistency, and I think that’s what cost me my job,” Tortorella explained on Tampa radio station 620 WDAE. “We couldn’t stop the losing streaks. We needed to win a couple games within those areas.

“Quite honestly, I deserved to be fired after that second half of the year.”

Tortorella — canned after the first of a lucrative five-year, $10 million deal — finished 36-35-11 last season in what was regarded as a disastrous campaign for both himself and the organization; the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in five years and their anemic offense finished 28th in the NHL.

That said, Torts did have some positive things to say about his time in Vancouver. He praised the group of players he coached and said he made strides to develop a better relationship with the media than he had in past stops, like New York.

But he also acknowledged the incident that left an indelible black mark on his time with the Canucks.

On Jan. 18 of last year, Tortorella lost the plot and went after Flames head coach Bob Hartley following a massive line brawl to start the game:

Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his antics — one of the longest coaching suspensions in NHL history — and admitted it marred his entire campaign.

“You’re talking to a guy that went down a hallway after another coach last year, which was so across the line, so embarrassing to my organization and my team,” Tortorella said. “You live and die by the sword a little bit there.

“That was really one of the bad spots of my season.”

Feaster: Just a matter of time until Tortorella returns

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John Tortorella has been a head coach in part or all of the last 14 NHL campaigns. Could 2014-15 be the season that ends that streak?

Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, has a 446-375-37-78 coaching record, and his teams have advanced to the playoffs in eight of the last 11 seasons. He was also fired by the New York Rangers and Vancouver within the span of a year and his tenure with the Canucks couldn’t have gone much worse.

Was that the final nail in the coffin though or will the controversial 56-year-old coach get another shot? Jay Feaster, who served as the Lightning’s general manager during most of Tortorella’s run as the team’s bench boss, is betting on the latter.

“I think time heals all wounds,” Feaster said in an interview with the Fischler Report. “I don’t think for a minute that Torts was anything other than what people knew he was. I think Mike Gillis knew the issues, the positives and the negatives. In my mind the issue really came down to that infamous day when he decided to try to get in the locker room when [Calgary head coach] Bob Hartley was antagonizing.”

Feaster is referring to an incident that happened on Jan. 18 that involved Tortorella trying to get into the Calgary Flames locker room during the first intermission. Tortorella was riled up after the game started with a line brawl. He was suspended for 15 days for his actions.

It’s worth noting though that the Canucks’ decline predated that event. They got off to a 23-11-6 start, but were on a 2-5-3 stretch going into the game against Calgary. Vancouver finished the season 36-35-11 and ranked 28th in goals scored.

“I believe that John will get back,” Feaster added. “General managers in the league know he’s a good coach, and you take the good with the bad. Part of what makes him a good coach is that he does not have the political correctness gene. He is not worried about what you or me or what anybody else thinks about him – he’s going to do what he thinks is right. I think some time away, so time to decompress, I think that’ll be good for him.”

There are always teams that under perform during the regular season and some of them will attempt to shake things up by firing their head coach. As Feaster sees it, eventually one of them is going to bet on the idea that Tortorella can turn the season around.

Related:

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

Pens’ coaching search goes on — Mike Johnston a candidate?

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Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has “reached out to a couple of guys” that were not on his original list of candidates to become Pittsburgh’s new head coach.

Calling them “very good candidates” in an interview with the Post-Gazette, Rutherford understands that fans have become impatient with a process they were led to believe last week was close to ending.

“I guess people get anxious,” said Rutherford. “They want news sooner.”

It’s believed the Penguins wanted to hire Willie Desjardins to replace Dan Bylsma; however, Desjardins chose Vancouver instead.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers have also hired new coaches recently, with Bill Peters going to the former and Gerard Gallant the latter.

One possible candidate for Rutherford is Mike Johnston. The Portland Winterhawks (WHL) coach interviewed for the Canucks’ job, and might have been John Tortorella’s replacement in Vancouver if not for the availability of Desjardins.

“He has done an excellent job the last five years with Portland,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said a short time ago. “They play an up-tempo, skilled game…. He coaches the style we want our team to play.”

Report: Tortorella wanted Burrows bought out, never spoke to AHL coach

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Now that John Tortorella is out with the Vancouver Canucks, details about how he ran the show in his one season with the team are finding their way out.

Gary Mason of the Globe And Mail shared some curious tidbits he’s learned about how the embattled former coach handled the situation in Vancouver. To say the least, it’s an eye-opener.

— Tortorella wanted the organization to buy out forward Alex Burrows. In 49 games during an injury-addled season, Burrows, 32,  had five goals and 15 points and has three more years left on his contract with a $4.5 million cap hit.

— Injuries were a big problem for the Canucks this season and they had to dip into the AHL ranks for help often. Problem there, according to Mason, was Torts never spoke once with Utica Comets coach Travis Green. It’s tough to know who you’ve got on the way up if you’re not discussing it with the coach and that put former GM Mike Gillis even more on the spot to try and help the team.

— Torts wasn’t one much for practices this season, apparently. Mason said players felt the coach didn’t have the team practicing enough during the season. He also accused David Booth of being late for a meeting he was early for.

With this pile of apparent issues, it’s incredible to think the organization hurried to get Tortorella in place and signed him to a five-year contract last summer. Now that Torts and Gillis are both out of town, let’s just marvel at how this all came apart this season.

It’s official: Canucks fire Tortorella, Sullivan

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The worst-kept secret over the last 24 hours is now official — Vancouver has dismissed head coach John Tortorella and assistant Mike Sullivan.

Here’s a statement from team president Trevor Linden, which alludes to the earlier dismissal of GM Mike Gillis:

“Today we are making an important change in the direction of our team,” said Linden. “On behalf of the entire organization, we extend our thanks to John, Mike and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and wish them the very best.”

“We have a lot of important work to accomplish this off-season as we build our management and coaching staff, improve our roster and connect with our fans. Our General Manager search is well underway and we will begin assessing head coaching candidates immediately.”

There was no news given about the status of the rest of Tortorella’s coaching staff — assistant Glen Gulutzan, video coach Darryl Williams and goalie coach Rollie Melanson — so it’s safe to assume they will remain in place until a new bench boss is hired.

In an interesting note, Linden also sent a separate message to Canucks ticketholders further explaining his decision to remove Tortorella:

This is a fresh start for our team and you’ll see us make some other changes this summer. It starts with how we shape our management and coaching staffs and the roster improvements we’re able to make. Our goal is to be back in the playoffs next spring as we continue developing this group into a team that can challenge for the Stanley Cup.

We’re also committed to making it exciting to watch Canucks games throughout the season. A Season Ticket Member sent me a message recently saying, “We all want ‘The Cup’ of course but we also want to enjoy the ride too.” We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen. We want to put a team on the ice that creates buzz and anticipation in the city on game days. A team that has you planning your week around games and coming early to Rogers Arena to enjoy the atmosphere and to cheer on your Canucks.

Tortorella leaves the Canucks after just one seasons on the job, with a 36-35-11 record and four years remaining on his five-year, $10 million deal.