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How much will Tortorella change the Canucks?

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Once it became clear that John Tortorella was primed to take over the head coaching gig for the Vancouver Canucks, many assumed that he’d transform the squad into the New York Rangers of the Pacific Northwest.

The fiery coach seemed to embolden such thoughts when he insisted that the Sedin twins will kill penalties and maybe even block shots. Ryan Kesler added more fuel to the fire when he told the media that Tortorella will “expect more from everybody.”

While we’ll only really know once the games begin – or maybe only after a full season – it’s quite possible that the changes won’t be as drastic as people expect.

Player roles

As ESPN Insider’s Neil Greenberg reviewed (subscription required), Tortorella and former Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault do indeed tend to deploy top forwards differently when it comes to where they begin shifts. Those preferences might mean a shift in advanced stats, yet the alterations in goals and assists may not be that substantial.

Tortorella admitted that he didn’t get the most out of top scorers after the 2013 playoffs, but it’s likely that Vancouver’s offensive identity will remain largely the same next season. (The long-term outlook could be fuzzier, however.)

Shot-blocking

Tortorella certainly didn’t deny his love of shot-blocking, but it could be crucial to take personnel into account when considering his approach. When he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2000-01 to 2007-08, the Bolts only finished in the top 15 in shot-blocking once (when they ranked 12th with 507 total in 2007-08).

Maybe he required Rangers players to put their bodies on the line because he didn’t believe that he really had the roster to dominate puck possession and win in more finesse-driven ways?

Regardless, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tortorella views Kesler as the new Ryan Callahan: his do-everything, all-around American forward.

Penalty-killing Sedins?

Maybe Tortorella doesn’t believe in players specializing quite as much as Vigneault does, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the Sedins’ penalty kill time remains limited.

For all the bluster, Tortorella hasn’t made that big of a habit of employing top scorers on the penalty kill.

In 2013, Rick Nash averaged 31 seconds of PK time while Brad Richards notched six seconds per contest. Henrik Sedin’s nine seconds per game eclipses Richards’ mark, too.

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It’s likely that Tortorella will make some changes to the way the Canucks play, yet it’s reasonable to flip that notion and state that Vancouver’s roster might alter his outlook in equal proportions.

Flexibility is an underrated trait found among many of the league’s best thinkers, so don’t be surprised if the Canucks’ new coach ends up being more open-minded to changing his ways than many expect.

He’ll probably continue to conduct hilariously uncomfortable press conferences, though.

Tortorella announces Sullivan and Gulutzan as assistant coaches

John Tortorella
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It was rumored a few weeks ago that Mike Sullivan and Glen Gulutzan would join John Tortorella in Vancouver, and now that has been confirmed by the coach himself.

While speaking at the Canucks Summer Summit, Tortorella confirmed that both men will be joining him as assistants behind the bench. He also noted that video coach Darryl Williams and goalie coach Rollie Melanson would be staying on board.

Sullivan was Tortorella’s assistant while with the New York Rangers and the two have five seasons of experience together there. Sullivan is also a former head coach of the Boston Bruins.

Gulutzan, who was fired by the Stars after this past season, wound up not being out of work very long. Tortorella says he’s looking forward to working with him in Vancouver.

Kesler on Tortorella: ‘He’s going to expect more from everybody’

Ryan Kesler
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Things are set to be a lot different in Vancouver with John Tortorella coaching the team and forward Ryan Kesler found out first-hand what that’ll be like.

Kesler tells Ben Kuzma of The Province that Tortorella has expectations for the veteran club that they’re going to need to live up to or face Torts’ wrath.

“He’s going to expect more from everybody, and we’re going to need more,” he said. “The way things ended last year, I don’t think anybody looks at themselves as a top dog anymore. We’ve got to find our way and battle every night.”

Good thing for the Canucks is Tortorella seems like the kind of coach that will make sure no one acts like a top dog regardless. Rest assured, “battling every night” won’t be a problem with Torts there.

Related: Rangers, Vigneault to face Canucks, Tortorella in preseason

Rangers, Vigneault to face Canucks, Tortorella in preseason

TortsAV
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On Tuesday, the New York Rangers released their preseason schedule.

While normally cause for little interest, the release was intriguing in that it features a game that defies all preconceived notions of preseason hockey — because it’s actually kind of compelling.

On Sept. 26, new coach Alain Vigneault will take the Blueshirts to his old stomping ground, Vancouver, to face the Canucks, who are now coached by Vigneault’s predecessor in New York:

John Tortorella.

Drama!

The game is part of New York’s West Coast exhibition tour, which begins with a Sept. 23 game in Calgary, followed by a game the following night against the Oilers in Edmonton.

From there, the Rangers will fly to Vancouver to take on the Canucks, before heading to Las Vegas to partake in the Kings’ annual Frozen Fury event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It makes sense the Canucks and Rangers would find a way to meet up.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in NHL history two coaches have swapped benches and become the other’s immediate successor.

Vigneault left Vancouver as the Canucks’ all-time winningest head coach, capturing the Jack Adams trophy in 2007 while leading the club to back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies in 2011 and ’12.

Tortorella was an Adams nominee in 2012, leading the Rangers to first place in the Eastern Conference (for the first time since 1994) and the conference finals (for the first time since 1997.)

Tortorella wants better working relationship with media

John Tortorella
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John Tortorella’s relationship with the media while serving as the head coach of the New York Rangers was often heated, to the point where he recently lamented that he had been defined as “that lunatic.”

Tortorella was been fired by the Rangers and hired as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. It’s a chance for a new start and that’s something he wants to take advantage of.

“I know the scrutiny and the pressure and the media and I think I need to do a much better job at cultivating a relationship,” Tortorella told TSN Radio 1050. “There will be mistakes along the way but I certainly need to straighten a few things out as we begin this.”

Of course, we’ll have to wait until we get into the heart of the regular season and then playoffs before we have a good idea of how Tortorella’s handling of the Vancouver media will be any different. However, Tortorella insists that this is something he genuinely believes in.

“Listen, I’m not going to go out to dinner and hang with the media but I need a working relationship,” Tortorella said. He added that it won’t be a “love-fest.”

Tortorella’s renewed efforts come after he had time to reflect in between jobs.

“No matter if it’s in Vancouver or wherever, and I’m very fortunate for another stop here, when you’re told you’re no longer wanted as a coach, you end up reflecting and assessing,” said Tortorella.

“I’ve done some pretty stupid things along the way… I’m going to try and get some of the stupid things out of the way.”

Tortorella also spoke about Roberto Luongo after he had a chance to talk with the goaltender following the Cory Schneider trade. He feels Luongo will be “the backbone of our team.”

Luongo was originally going to speak to 99.3 The Fox today, but that interview was canceled.

Related:

Report: Torts adds Sullivan, Gulutzan to Canucks coaching staff

Tortorella era in Vancouver will see Sedin twins blocking shots, killing penalties

Canucks announce Tortorella hire: ‘John knows how to win’