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:
#Canucks core players have been involved in coaching process. From what I have heard, Sedins, in particular, were pushing for Tortorella.
— Jeff Angus (@anguscertified) June 21, 2013
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.Tags: Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella, Mike Gillis