Vancouver Canucks expected to hire John Tortorella, completing head coach trade with New York Rangers

In New York City, Alain Vigneault is being touted as an upgrade over John Tortorella. This, in itself, isn’t a surprise. After all, Tortorella’s abrasive style had worn out its welcome in the Big Apple, particularly with the media, and Vigneault comes with some impressive credentials to his name.

What is surprising, however, is that one of the big reasons he’s being touted as an upgrade is because he’s an offensive coach. In fact, Glen Sather specifically said that Vigneault “loves the offensive game” in the press conference introducing the new head coach. That will come as a shock to Vigneault’s biggest detractors in Vancouver, who bemoaned his tendency to lapse into boring, defensive hockey at the drop of a hat.

Meanwhile, the coach for whom Sather considers Vigneault an offensive upgrade is on his way to Vancouver to coach the Vancouver Canucks.

According to multiple reports, John Tortorella has been offered the head coach position in Vancouver. There’s nothing official yet, but he’s been spotted flying into Vancouver and, since he’s already interviewed with the team twice, it’s unlikely he’s heading in for a third interview. If you ever do get called in for a third interview for a job, it’s because they think you’re a weirdo and they want everyone in the office to see what a weirdo you are so they can laugh at you. Never go in for a third interview, unless you’re comfortable being openly laughed at, is what I’m saying.

Tortorella, like Vigneault, has been vilified by his former team’s media as a defensive-minded coach. Vigneault, however, is enjoying a nice re-brand as the new coach of the Rangers. CBS New York had my favourite line about the new hire:

Vigneault certainly has a different on-ice philosophy than Tortorella. He is not going to make everyone play defense and block shots the way Tortorella did during his tenure in New York.

Yep, if there’s one thing Vigneault is known for, it’s forgiveness for defensive lapses. He definitely didn’t expect Cody Hodgson to play defence, for instance.

Will Tortorella get a similar re-brand in Vancouver? It’s certainly possible. Already, optimistic fans are pointing to his stint as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, particularly 2004, when the Lightning finished first in the Eastern Conference, were third in the league in goals scored, and had Martin St. Louis win the Art Ross, Lester B. Pearson, and Hart Trophies enroute to winning the Stanley Cup.

That season is held up as an example of how Tortorella can coach offensive-minded hockey, with the suggestion that he had to coach a more defensive style with the personnel he was given in New York.

Is Tortorella an upgrade over Vigneault? Well, no. But the Canucks didn’t need a better coach than Vigneault; they just needed a different coach.

The key is in the approach. Vigneault was content to hand his veterans the key to the locker room; Tortorella is a lot more hands-on. And if you believe that the Canucks were getting too content and complacent over the past two seasons, then you likely think they need a kick in the pants. That’s exactly what Tortorella is known for.

Lost in the hubbub of discussions about Tortorella’s personality is the fact that he is a very smart, tactical coach with a ton of experience. Already questions have been raised over how the Canucks will respond to Tortorella’s coaching style, but the experience and ideas he brings with him will likely at least earn their respect.

As soon as the rumours over Tortorella’s hire began flying around Twitter, commentators immediately wondered how the Sedins would react to Tortorella. Would they be tough enough? Would they risk injury blocking shots? Would they respond well to Tortorella’s vitriol given the leadership role they had under Vigneault?

Jeff Angus assuaged those concerns with a recent tweet, suggesting that the Sedins themselves were pushing for Tortorella in the first place:

 

So, there goes that theory.

Perhaps the Sedins had heard good things from their fellow countryman, Henrik Lundqvist? Perhaps Tortorella is hated more by the media than his own players? Perhaps the Sedins want a change in coaching style as much as the fans? If so, that’s one major con to Tortorella’s hiring shot down.

At the very least, this is an interesting hire by Mike Gillis, one that will likely define his run as the Canucks’ GM. If Tortorella is able to wring a few more productive years out of this core group of players and Gillis is able to restock the prospect pool in the meantime, then Gillis will be praised. If the Canucks crash and burn next season and Tortorella turns surly with the media, Gillis will be vilified.

Meanwhile, Tortorella’s Canucks will be constantly compared to Vigneault’s Rangers, rightly or wrongly. With the schedule changing next season, we’ll even get to see the two teams play twice.

We’re in for an interesting ride.

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17 comments

  1. peanutflower
    June 21, 2013

    Well, if this comes to pass I might just skip watching the games and go right to the after-game pressers. They would likely be interesting. More along the lines of “Sedin is not Swedish for hit me” or whatever juicy comment Burkie offered up.

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  2. bluemoonjones
    June 21, 2013

    Never in my wildest thoughts did I ever believe Van would hire Torts. And I also never would have believed that Hank and Danny would have ever wanted him as a coach.

    We fans like to think we know so much, but at the end of the day we know very, very little about what goes on in the locker rooms or team offices. How they ended up with Torts I will never know. Good hire? Bad hire? No idea. On the surface I don’t like it. But I’m not exactly a NHL GM. No, sir.

    But I do feel pretty strongly that we Canuck fans are in for one wild-ass ride, and we best hold on tight…

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  3. bergberg
    June 21, 2013

    Yes! Love this.

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  4. Snapdancer
    June 21, 2013

    Everything here in Lotusland is so much more laid back than the Big Apple. The climate, time zone, greenery, yoga health nuts, hipsters, and hippies. I for one will pass if he’s on my left, might do his blood pressure some good.

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  5. J21 (@Jyrki21)
    June 21, 2013

    I’ll bet the idea that the Sedins were “pushing” for him is an extrapolation of a vanilla quote they may have made about how he’s a good coach who has won a Cup before, etc. Sports media, even more than normal media, tends to turn sample sizes of one into “trends” (remember how Michael Grabner was the world’s worst defensive player because Scott Arniel once criticizes his hustle on one shift?)

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 21, 2013

      I don’t think so. I know for a fact that Angus has legitimate sources in the Canucks organization, including players.

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  6. steveB
    June 21, 2013

    Nnnnnnnnnnnnnoooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!
    I’ve woken up in Canucks Bizarro World!
    Might as well bring in Mark Messier and Mike Keenan as assistant coaches. :-(

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  7. Pukeko
    June 21, 2013

    Gillis was wise to consult and involve the Canucks leadership group in the process of hiring a new coach. He’s involved them before in decision making, and I was pleased to see that they were apparently consulted again. As a member of the masses on the outside looking in to the canucks organization through a small, media shaped and tinted aperture, I am most interested to put aside the noise about JT’s personality/outbursts and see what he can actually do with this team. When Tom Barrasso (and others) were winning Stanley Cups as players no one give a rip about their fiery nature with the media- so I’ll judge this call on its merits (wins in the playoffs)- rather than interpreting a perception of failure to play nice in the media/locker room as a failure coach.

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  8. BBoone
    June 21, 2013

    As has been mentioned elsewhere, the support coaching staff , always important, may be especially important in this case. Secondly, I hope they can institute a development program for our young players that allows them to play, and play important roles,while being allowed to make mistakes.
    It is important in cap sports to be able to retool on the go with a constant influx of good young players on cap friendly contracts. This requires a lot of the right kind of patience not only from the entire Canuck organization but also from the 4th estate and the all knowing bleacher set. I am a thumbs up on this hire for what that is worth from my obstructed view ,pillar seat in the PNE Forum.

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    • peanutflower
      June 23, 2013

      right. no one has mentioned assistant coaches and pp coaches yet. any enlightenment on that by anyone?

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  9. Pavo
    June 21, 2013

    Must say that I am a little surprised. Not that I know anything, but I would have thought that a yeller/screamer was not quite Gillis’ type.

    Also, I already have serious doubts about Tortorella’s judgment. Doesn’t he know that the fool-proof way to re-habilitate one’s reputation in the NHL is to LEAVE the Canucks!

    Watch as Vigneault morphs from a whining, washed-up loser into the epitome of class, smarts and O6 winningness.

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  10. TubaNat
    June 21, 2013

    Not sure how this will play out, but let’s be honest – the two games against the Rangers are going to be great, if only because of the inevitable overhype that will be made! And quite frankly, I think we needed a good shake up, and Torts seems like a capable shaker…

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  11. StevenK
    June 21, 2013

    Am I crazy for drawing a parallel between Tortorella and Keenan?

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  12. akidd
    June 21, 2013

    if torts becomes coach, i will seriously consider my canuck fandom. and ya, tom, i will concede that you are correct and immediately jump on the ‘GILLIS IS A FOOL’ bandwagon. i’ll give you a run for your money.

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  13. Live now
    June 22, 2013

    Team needed an identity change, it starts at the top. Torts brings what other teams aka..Boston, Chicago, LA, etc. have, fiery, tough, aggressive, arrogance towards wanting to win. The league has made it abundantly clear in the last 4years, nice guys finish last..especially in the playoffs.

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  14. mark
    June 22, 2013

    Torts was probably the best coach out of the ones available. A no-name coach was not an option in this market. Luckily, Torts is the best suited for making sure there is no complacency in this team (which is a huge plus in my view).

    First move I hope he makes is ship Edler before July 1, when his NTC kicks in.

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  15. Seapp
    June 24, 2013

    One of the questions that will be interesting to see is if Tortorella thinks he can deploy Ballard more effectively than Vigneault. I’d be interested in seeing any thoughts about how player evaluations might change with Tortorella in charge. I would hope that Gillis and Tortorella had some conversation in this regard before he is hired.

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