Poll results: PHT readers think John Tortorella is the coach most likely to be fired

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A couple days ago, I reacted to a piece about NHL coaches who might be in danger of being fired. Often times in these situations, I like to take the temperature of PHT readers. So I asked the audience whose job they thought might be in the most trouble. Here are the results.

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tortsismad.jpgJohn Tortorella earned the most votes even though he is only about to enter his second year as the Rangers’ boss. Many Rangers fans would probably agree that the club’s biggest issues are rooted in their sometimes-befuddled general manager Glen Sather (more on him a second), but Tortorella’s contentious style could wear thin in the Big Apple.

Another high-profile coach on the hot seat is Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last two seasons have been absolutely brutal for the former Capitals and Sharks coach, whose reputation used to be that he couldn’t get good teams over the hump. I’d say he has more pressure than Tortorella overall, but fans might be correct in saying that Torts’ job is in (slightly) greater danger.

Bruce Boudreau is the most successful coach on the hot seat, but it’s not outrageous to wonder if he might get canned after another playoff letdown. Marc Crawford, Cory Clouston, Brent Sutter and Todd Richards also received votes.

A lot of people decided to write-in with an “other” choice. Some were super-cute (“Ted Nugent”), one might have been a Mormon (“Joe Smith”?), a few need to learn how to spell Claude Julien and one must really, really want to fire New York Rangers GM Glen Sather. Here are the 18 write-in votes.

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Claude Julien: 7
Lindy Ruff: 4
Paul Maurice: 2
Joe Sacco: 1
Joel Quenneville: 1
Joe Smith?: 1
Ted Nugent (of course): 1
Glen Sather: 1

While Julien and Ruff didn’t receive more results than the lowest ranked listed coach (Ottawa’s Cory Clouston), it’s reasonable to say that they might have gotten more if they were on the actual list. I’m guessing Ruff was a choice for those who simply figure he’ll drop off due to the law of averages. Julien seems like he’s done pretty well with an often-challenging Bruins team, bringing them within one game of the Eastern Conference finals two years in a row, but management might want even more next season.

Now, keep in mind, it’s not exactly as if just one coach could get fired next season. In fact, if only one head rolled in 2010-11, that would break a longstanding pattern of head coach unrest in the league. Just remember that even if GMs and owners won’t necessarily forget the past, everyone is 0-0-0 going into a new season … and some coaches do their best work with their heads on the chopping block.

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

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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 Canucks.com 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.”

Tortorella defends Team USA’s roster, blames loss to Canada on ‘self-inflicted’ mistakes

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach John Tortorella of Team USA looks on during the first period while playing Team Europe during the World Cup of Hockey tournament on September 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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“We have practiced enough,” John Tortorella said yesterday. “We have talked enough, we have gone through all that process. Let’s play the damn game.”

Well, the damn game finished 4-2 for Team Canada tonight in Toronto, eliminating Tortorella’s Team USA from World Cup contention. With a whimper.

The winless Americans still have to play the winless Czechs on Thursday, but it will be a meaningless affair for both sides. Team Europe and Team Canada have both advanced to the semifinals. They’ll play each other tomorrow for first place in Group A.

For the Americans — who came into the best-on-best tournament trumpeting the slogan, “It’s time” — it was an embarrassing, demoralizing, dismal performance.

They lacked creativity on offense.

They had numerous defensive breakdowns.

They did not show much resilience.

They did not look like a team with a sound plan.

In two games, they were outscored by a 7-2 margin. On Saturday, in a game they couldn’t afford to lose, they were shut out by Team Europe, 3-0.

Now the blame game starts.

It begins with the coach, who was always a controversial choice. In 2014, Tortorella was fired by the Vancouver Canucks after one disastrous season, and he admitted he deserved to be. But Team USA’s general manager, Dean Lombardi, felt that Tortorella had learned some valuable lessons, so he gave him the job.

“John’s had a lot of success, but what I was most intrigued by was that he was willing to admit he’d made mistakes,” said Lombardi. “He freely opened up as far as mistakes he’d made with players, maybe even times with his system, as well as the media. That takes a lot.”

Upon getting hired, Tortorella talked about his plan for Team USA at the World Cup.

“It’s about pressure,” he said. “It’s about attacking. And let’s forget about the X’s and O’s, it’s about a mindset. It’s about a team that needs to feel good about itself before this tournament even starts, needs to feel strong mentally about itself. I think intangibles in such a short tournament is huge.”

The roster would reflect Tortorella’s philosophy. Players that liked to engage physically, like Justin Abdelkader, were chosen over skilled goal-scorers like Phil Kessel. On the back end, it was big Erik Johnson over a puck-mover like, say, Kevin Shattenkirk.

“We are going to know who we are,” Tortorella vowed. “And we are going to play our game.”

And after falling to Canada, he doubled down on the plan.

According to Tortorella, the problem for the Americans wasn’t the roster or tactics. It was a simple matter of execution.

“We didn’t play well enough,” he said. “But you guys can beat up the roster all you want. You look at some of those players on our roster, there are some pretty good skill players, and we just simply did not do enough offensively. And we self-inflicted quite a bit in the two games. We gave some easy goals, and you just can’t do that in a short tournament.”

He added, “I thought the guys were prepared, but we blow up, self-inflicted, and they surged, and we had no answer. We kept trying to catch up the rest of the game and just couldn’t get it done. ”

Meanwhile, Kessel took to Twitter:

Bottom line: this World Cup is going to sting for USA Hockey, and it’s likely to lead to some soul-searching. What kind of hockey do the Americans want to play? What do they value most? They tried it the hard-working, gritty way and it didn’t go very well. Is there a better way?

And hey, maybe there isn’t. Maybe right now there just isn’t enough talent to match up with Canada. Maybe there will be one day. But until that day arrives, maybe the Torts way is, in fact, the best way.

Let the debate rage.

Related: That was the worst possible World Cup debut for Team USA

Abdelkader with Kane? Tortorella isn’t ‘over-thinking it’

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 25: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks moves around Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 25, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 4-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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For better or worse, John Tortorella is committed to his vision of what works in hockey.

Specifically: when in doubt, Tortorella goes for grit over skill. That’s not to say that he’s dismissing talent altogether when making moves for Team USA … but his fixation on Justin Abdelkader fits nicely into that narrative.

While he’s stated that line combinations aren’t set in stone, it’s still resounding to see Abdelkader line up with Patrick Kane. At least during a best-on-best tournament.

“There isn’t anything thinking,” Tortorella said when asked to justify the combo. “You’re over-thinking it.”

Sheesh, Tortorella is practically writing the jokes for us, isn’t he?

The obvious

Analytics-friendly thinking would dictate that Team USA would want to put a greater emphasis on skill after being shut out by Team Europe, especially as they anticipate a Canada team that’s willing to blend talent with effort.

The argument that Tortorella is set in his ways, likely to his roster’s detriment, is fair.

Devil’s advocate

On the other hand, there are certain factors that justify this allegedly non-thinking way of thinking.

For one thing, Abdelkader himself explained to the AP’s Stephen Whyno and others that he’s had plenty of experience playing with high-end skaters such as Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit. These aren’t exactly uncharted waters for the hard-driving forward.

It’s easy to see why his forechecking ways appeal to Torts, but consider this: Abdelkader actually did play pretty well in America’s opener.

According to Natural Stat Trick’s numbers, Abdelkader was one of America’s best forwards from a possession standpoint. He also managed three shots on goal with modest ice time of almost 12 minutes.

If you take name recognition and previous experience out of the equation, Tortorella is rewarding someone who did some nice things in a very specific example.

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Look, the giggles make sense. It’s pretty odd to react to being shut out by putting a limited (if hard-working) forward with one of your few game-breakers in Kane.

There really is a thought process to this non-thinking, though.

The U.S. likely knew what it was getting into in choosing Tortorella. It probably won’t be pretty, yet that’s sort of how Torts likes it.

Tortorella: USA vs. Canada is ‘our championship game’

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 16:  Head coach of Team USA John Tortorella looks on during practice at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 16, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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After Saturday’s humbling 3-0 loss to Europe, Team USA head coach John Tortorella was (dare we say it) remarkably understated.

He admitted that the U.S. is now “chasing it” in the World Cup of Hockey and was borderline boring in cautioning against panic.

Thankfully, he brought the drama this afternoon, though. In his mind, Tuesday’s game against Canada is America’s “championship game,” according to reporters including the AP’s Stephen Whyno.

“This is either you’re afraid of it or it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Tortorella said, via NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

Tortorella is far from the only Team USA member to acknowledge the importance of Tuesday’s looming test against Canada. “Must-win” seems to be the phrase of the moment for quite a few players.

“There’s always pressure, but it’s a must-win for us,” Derek Stepan said, according to NHL.com. “Maybe it’s a good thing we got our backs against the wall and got a little adversity. We have to up our level and up our game.”

While it’s dangerous to assume that practice lines equal game-time decisions, it’s worth noting that Dustin Byfuglien and Kyle Palmieri were in the mix for the U.S. during Sunday’s practice.

Torts is the first to admit that the World Cup is the sprint to the NHL regular season’s marathon. There isn’t much time to ramp up America’s pace, so why not throw a little hype around?