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


Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis has confirmed the hiring of John Tortorella, who will become the 17th head coach in franchise history.

Here’s an excerpt of Gillis’ letter to ticketholders:

I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve just named John Tortorella as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. It’s a great day for our organization, and I’m confident that this change will make an immediate and significant impact on the team.

Over the last several weeks, we have looked at every possible option for this role and we met with several exceptional candidates. We approached the process with completely open minds but with a very clear view of what we need to accomplish. As I said at the end of the season, we are an organization committed to doing everything possible to win, from ownership down. I feel John gives us the best opportunity to accomplish that goal.

John knows how to win. He’s won the Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup and has been very successful with a broad range of players and teams. Beyond John’s tremendous skill, insight and experience, he will be a great fit in terms of his values and work ethic. Off the ice, John and his wife have done inspiring work through the John and Christine Tortorella Family Foundation and he’s been a champion and a support for many people in need. John is also extremely excited about our players, our organization, our fans and our community.

The Canucks will officially introduce Tortorella to the media this afternoon but, prior to that, will hold a live online interview on the team website where ticketholders can submit questions for the new bench boss.

Tortorella already spoke with about his new role, and how he’ll need to adjust some of his, ahem, personality traits after five seasons in New York.

“I think it’s come to the point with me, where I’m kind of being defined as ‘that lunatic,’ not only on the bench, but also after games with media,” he explained. “I don’t want to be defined that way, but I do make my own bed in that type of situation and I need to make some corrections, I need to make some adjustments in that part of it.

“I’m dealing with an older team here, as I look at the roster, I think I need to respect the older players and some of the processes they’ve gone through and make adjustments with myself as far as how I handle them.”

After plenty of ‘disappointment’ last season, Tortorella hopes to lead Jackets back to the playoffs

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 7-5.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

John Tortorella has had success as a head coach in the NHL, but his last few stints behind the bench haven’t gone according to plan.

Tortorella, now 58, will have the unenviable task of turning around a Blue Jackets team that he helped guide to the fourth-worst record in the league one season ago.

Can the Jackets bounce back next season? Is Torts the right man to get this thing turned around? That remains to be seen, but getting the Jackets back on the rails won’t be easy.

“When you’re finished April 9 and you’re not playing in the real stuff (playoffs), I would think there would be some disappointment,”said Tortorella, per the team’s website. “I feel like I’ve let the organization down. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to get this straightened out.”

In all fairness to Torts, Columbus was 0-7 when he took over for Todd Richards on Oct. 21. He led the team to a 34-32-8 record. This year, he’ll have the opportunity to go through camp with his squad, which should make things easier.

It’ll be interesting to see if the structure and gritty style that Tortorella deploys will eventually mesh with the players he has at his disposal.

The Jackets haven’t made many changes this off-season. Outside of the players they drafted in June, they really just added Sam Gagner in free agency. The boost Tortorella will be looking for might come from the farm.

The Lake Erie Monsters took home the Calder Cup in 2016 and several of the players from that team could make the jump to the NHL in 2016-17.

“Those guys took huge steps,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. “That gives them the type of experience they need to compete for an NHL spot and to make an impact on our team.”

Youngsters like Zach Werenski, Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand and 2016 draft pick Pierre-Luc Dubois could be in Columbus come mid-October. Maybe a youthful spark could push the Jackets back into the playoff picture next April.

David Booth: Still tormented by Tortorella

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks talks to media after his team lost to the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena on November 17, 2013 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

Sometimes it feels like no one is safe from the wrath of John Tortorella.

There was the “absolute stupidity” that led to his lengthy suspension following that unforgettable locker room confrontation with Bob Hartley in 2014. He seems to relish opportunities to criticize players from other teams, particularly members of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s the sort of guy who inspires highlight reels of his “best” and saltiest comments:

The “fiery” coach freely admits that he could get along better with the media.

Long story short, Torts spews venom outward, but his own players encounter the bile as well. David Booth reminded us of as much on Thursday as he recalled his Canucks days:

Amusing stuff.

This seems like a decent excuse to take a trip down memory lane and look at Torts’ best/worst moments. (For the sake of keeping this greatest hits package under three discs, we’ll skip his long-ago Lightning days.)

In Columbus

Tortorella hasn’t been with the Blue Jackets for very long, yet there are rumblings here and there that he’s not gotten along with certain personalities.

Both the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen deny that there was a rift with Tortorella, yet the rumors were abundant. If nothing else, it’s clear Torts told Johansen that he felt he was out of shape.

Canucks catastrophe

Torts only coached the Canucks for 67 games, but it was a pretty disastrous time, even beyond the Hartley scream-down. Tortorella has also memorably clashed with Adam Oates (who said he could easily beat him up) and Peter DeBoer over the years, just to name a couple other coaches.

Benching Roberto Luongo during the Heritage Classic likely hastened his departure. Accurate or not, it was a little harsh to label Zack Kassian the way he did in public. There may have been issues with Alex Burrows and there were questions regarding whether Torts “lost the locker room.”

Oh, and remember his tirade toward Jannik Hansen?

Bumpy exit from Big Apple

Torts enjoyed a long run with the New York Rangers. Still, things ended in an even uglier fashion than you usually see when a coach exits a team.

Henrik Lundqvist denied calling for his firing, but reports indicated that multiple Rangers wanted him out. Things got weird with Brad Richards despite his assurances and he deflected questions about how he got along with Marian Gaborik. His back-and-forth with Carl Hagelin was pretty entertaining, too.

Sean Avery seemed to savor Torts’ firing the most, but that’s up to debate.


One can almost picture former Tortorella charges handing each other gifts like Johan Franzen “gave” to Gustav Nyquist in regards to Mike Babcock:

Maybe Booth will hand Brandon Dubinsky something similar, considering the rugged forward’s experiences playing under Torts for the Rangers and now the Blue Jackets?

(H/T to The Score for the Booth tweet.)

Report: Jackets add Shaw to Tortorella’s staff

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23:  Head coach Davis Payne (C) directs the St. Louis Blues against the Colorado Avalanche as assistant coach Brad Shaw (R) looks on during their preseason game at Pepsi Center on September 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Columbus has reportedly found a replacement for Craig Hartsburg.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets have hired longtime NHL coach Brad Shaw to serve as an assistant on John Tortorella’s staff.

Shaw, 52, was one of two candidates interviewed for the position — ex-Minnesota assistant Darryl Sydor was the other — and is certainly the more experienced of the pair.

Shaw spent the last 10 years as an assistant with the Blues and, prior to that, had a brief head coaching stint with the Islanders, along with some AHL head coaching experience as well.

Prior to his coaching days, Shaw was a journeyman blueliner with nearly 400 games of NHL experience. He’s since transitioned into a bench boss that primarily works with defensemen, which will be important in Columbus.

The club has two key youngsters manning the blueline — 22-year-old Ryan Murray, 21-year-old Seth Jones — and could possibly have a third next season, as 18-year-old super prospect Zach Werenski looks to make the big club after winning the Calder Cup with AHL Lake Erie.

Tortorella says ‘there’s been zero discussion’ about taking the ‘C’ away from Foligno

Columbus Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno, left, checks Washington Capitals' Zach Sill during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Associated Press

After posting career numbers in 2014-15, Nick Foligno has had a tough time producing this season.

Current Jackets coach John Tortorella wasn’t behind the bench when Foligno was named the captain, but despite questioning the leadership in his locker room on more than one occasion, Tortorella has no plans to remove the “C” from Foligno’s jersey.

“It’s been a bad year for Nick, and he has to understand that and he has to look at himself,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch. “He needs to get himself straightened up. Nobody else can do it other than him.

“Nick is our captain. There’s been zero discussion of (changing captains).”

The 28-year-old hasn’t recorded a point in his last 11 games and he has just nine goals and 34 points in 67 games this season. Those numbers are way down from last year, when Foligno scored 31 goals and 73 points.

“There’s a lot of things about my game this season that have just … fooled me,” Foligno said. “I’ve gone through every emotion possible. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Eventually you realize that those things don’t make it better.

“I’m trying to be a good leader for this team and find my way through it. I know it’s not going to last. I know I’ll be a better player for it and come out on the other side.”

Being a rookie captain in the NHL isn’t always easy (just ask Max Pacioretty, for example). But it’s good to know that Tortorella won’t take drastic measures after a failed season from the Blue Jackets. As you may remember, Torts stripped Vincent Lecavalier of the captaincy when they were both in Tampa Bay a few years ago.