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

17 Comments

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

31 Comments

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

55 Comments

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.

Report: Tortorella will be fired Thursday

26 Comments

For the second time in as many years, John Tortorella will be shown the door, according to TSN’s Farhan Lalji.

The controversial coach was brought in to make the Vancouver Canucks a better postseason squad after back-to-back first round exits under former bench boss Alain Vigneault. Instead, Tortorella’s Canucks failed to make the playoffs entirely and will reportedly be fired tomorrow.

Vancouver averaged just 2.33 goals per game in 2013-14, which put them ahead of just the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. A lot of that was due to the decline of the Sedin twins, who combined for just 27 goals and 97 points after Daniel Sedin alone topped that total in 2010-11 and Henrik Sedin did so in the previous campaign.

That’s not to suggest Tortorella was an innocent victim to Sedin’s decline though as his desire to have them focus more on blocking shots and killing penalties might have contributed to their offensive struggles.

Assuming the report is true, Tortorella’s firing would be another major step in the Canucks’ efforts to reinvent themselves. In the last two months, they’ve traded goaltender Roberto Luongo, fired GM Mike Gillis, and appointed Trevor Linden as the team’s new president.

Related:

Linden wants new Canucks GM by end of May

Tortorella somber after elimination, columnist calls team’s style ‘unwatchable’

Sedin backs Tortorella and staff: ‘We love playing for these coaches’

In two years, Gillis has gone from top dog to embattled GM

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

Linden thinks Torts misused the Sedins

Canucks owner threatens legal action after papers suggest he was behind Tortorella hire

23 Comments

All that’s missing is a big top and bearded lady.

The media circus that is the Vancouver Canucks reached new heights on Monday, as reports surfaced of a legal letter sent from owner Francesco Aquilini to two newspapers — The Province and the Globe and Mail — that demanded retraction and an apology for articles claiming he was directly involved with the hire of head coach John Tortorella.

More, from the Globe:

 On Monday, Francesco Aquilini sent a Globe and Mail reporter a text message warning of legal action after the newspaper published a story discussing the family’s involvement in the hiring.

“I read your article today. You are a prick,” it said. Two hours later, a legal letter from the family’s counsel arrived by e-mail. It alleged defamation, sought a retraction and an apology, and threatened further action.

“The facts are that while the Aquilinis supported the decision of the General Manager, the hiring decision was his and not theirs,” lawyer Howard Shapray of Vancouver-based Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP wrote in the legal letter to The Globe.

And here’s the Province’s take:

The Aquilinis have sent legal letters to two local media members, requesting a retraction and apology for suggesting ownership had a significant role in hiring John Tortorella. (for disclosure sake, I’m not one of them)

A libel notice must be sent within six weeks of an alleged libellous statement, and is the first step if you want to sue a publisher for libel.

In writing, you need to let the author know you believe you have been libelled.

In this particular case, the Aquilinis claim the reports, one of which says Tortorella was hired by consensus, were erroneous and Tortorella was their general manager’s choice, and one which they backed.

They also claim that by writing they had a prominent role in the hiring it was designed to “incite ridicule for making bad or embarrassing judgments.”

Neither writer or publication, as of this date, are planning a retraction or apology and both stand by their stories.

Fun stuff.

Whispers of an “ownership hire” in Vancouver have been going on since the day Tortorella was brought aboard, though nothing was ever confirmed publicly. Former GM Mike Gillis previously said the hire was his call, but did throw out the idea he wasn’t happy with the direction the team was taking in an interview with Team 1040 last week.

“The running of this team is my responsibility and I really feel over the last couple of seasons we’ve chased goalposts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play,” he said.

Aquilini, who turfed Gillis yesterday, will meet with the media at 1:30 p.m. ET today to discuss the dismissal — and reports suggest he could also introduce the club’s new leadership committee, which may or may not include ex-Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson or former Canucks captain Trevor Linden.