John Tortorella thinks Marian Gaborik will be back by Monday

Last night, we discussed the dreaded return of Marian Gaborik’s boogeyman (not to be confused with the possibly soon-to-be-returning Derek Boogaard), aka his recurring groin problems. Considering how much trouble he’s had for many years, it was natural for Rangers fans to get a little worried.

(Even if Gaborik’s loss means the gain of Mats Zuccarello, a guy whose nickname is “The Norwegian Hobbit Wizard.”)

Well, if you trust John Tortorella, it sounds like Gaborik’s groin problems are minor. In fact, the Rangers coach believes that he could be back in the team’s lineup as soon as Monday’s game against the New York Islanders. Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants has the story.

Gross also writes that enforcer Derek Boogaard is making good progress in his recovery from concussion issues, although he won’t be cleared to play any time sooner than his upcoming neurologist visit on Tuesday.

Gaborik has been undergoing treatment on his sore groin – it was starting to nag him prior to Monday’s intensive practice and he came in Wednesday saying he couldn’t skate – and also underwent acupuncture today. Tortorella said because of the spread-out schedule with two days off after tonight for Christmas, Gaborik should be ready to return when the team resumes practicing (on Sunday) and playing. Tortorella also shot down the idea that Gaborik, with just one goal in his past eight games, has been playing through an injury.

“He’s trying to get it taken care of,” Tortorella said. “I don’t think it’s been a long-term thing.”

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.”

Johnson ‘chomping at the bit’ after Blue Jackets’ franchise-record regular season

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The accolades came rolling in for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, after his sensational 2016-17 campaign that included a .931 save percentage in 63 starts, which was a big reason for his team’s overall success.

— John Tortorella went from being the coach favored to be fired first to the coach of the year.

Individual awards were the result of a franchise record-setting season with 50 wins and 108 points, as the Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs in a hyper competitive Metropolitan Division. But a great regular season gave way to a quick postseason appearance as Columbus was dispatched by the Penguins in the opening round, which doesn’t sit well with veteran defenseman Jack Johnson.

“Success is a relative term too, because we had a great regular season, no question, but we still lost in game five of the first round, so it’s not enough,” Johnson said in a Q&A on the club’s website.

“I want to win. I just finished my 10th year, and my 11th year I want to win. I hope every guy is taking the summer seriously, training and getting ready because whether you finished first in the regular season or snuck into the playoffs, if you lose in game five of the first round that’s just not enough. So I’m definitely chomping at the bit, excited for next season because I’m excited every year.”

His comments echo a message from Tortorella earlier this summer. In the coach’s words, the Blue Jackets were able to set a foundation. Now, it’s about taking that next step in contending for the Eastern Conference.

Gone from the Blue Jackets lineup is Sam Gagner, who had a nice bounce-back season with 18 goals and 50 points — 18 of which were on the power play — while playing on a one-year deal at a very affordable $650,000. He then turned last season’s production into a three-year contract, worth a total of $9.45 million, with the Canucks.

The Blue Jackets also bid farewell to Brandon Saad, who was traded back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

In ‘unforgiving’ NHL, Tortorella demands more of Blue Jackets

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Last summer, John Tortorella ruffled some feathers – and maybe lit some fires – in sending a letter demanding that Columbus Blue Jackets come to training camp ready to go.

Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt captured the mood during the Blue Jackets’ tremendous winning streak:

The letters arrived by mail, an old method from an old soul. Postmarked from Blue Jackets headquarters and individually addressed to each player, the single-typed page bluntly spelled out the road ahead. It was late July 2016, roughly one month before training camp began. “Usually you’re not talking hockey that early in the summer,” Foligno says, “but guys started calling each other, asking, ‘Did you get the letter?’ It sparked everyone.” The gist of the message? As Atkinson remembers: “You better f—ing come ready to rock and roll.”

Apparently this off-season’s version of that “rock and roll” letter went out on July 1, as Alison Lukan of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ website reports. Tortorella said that it’s “direct and to the point,” making it clear that he didn’t prompt players to go from “rock and roll” to, say, jazz.

Could it be too much? After all, an 82 regular-season games and some (potentially scarring) playoff matches can take a lot of a player.

Tortorella’s logic is reasonable, though: you can’t just relax. If you do, other teams might leave you behind.

“The league is so unforgiving,” Tortorella said. “If you’re not staying on top of things and staying current and always trying to improve as a leader, as a Blue Jacket, and as a team, you get stuck in the mud.

“We’ve just laid a little bit of the groundwork, we have a little bit of a foundation, now we have to continue to grow as an organization and as a team.”

And, before you accuse Tortorella of merely being a drill sergeant who can’t change, note his Jack Adams run last season.

Now, there’s the joke out there that Sergei Bobrovsky essentially “won” the Jack Adams for Torts, yet he got a lot out of a team that came into 2016-17 as a popular pick to finish with the league’s best draft lottery odds. Instead, he was often forward-thinking; the Blue Jackets even constructed a power play – enhanced by unexpected weapon Sam Gagner – that confounded the NHL for a significant chunk of the season.

In other words, Tortorella seems willing to innovate and keep up with a league that is “so unforgiving.” Such a thought makes it easier to accept that the coach, himself, can be a bit unforgiving, too.