John Tortorella has a nice start in Vancouver, but will he stay nice?

More than a week before the Canucks announced the hiring of John Tortorella to be Alain Vigneault’s replacement behind the bench, word began to leak out that he was the leading candidate. While I highly doubt that that’s what the club wanted, this is one coaching leak they were probably okay with — unlike the one that had us breaking Alain Vigneault’s firing to the world before the Canucks could formally break it to him.

It worked out pretty well for the Canucks. Tortorella exited the Rangers with a reputation, and it was one that left everyone in Vancouver, from the fans to the media, skeptical that he was the right choice. This market requires patience — simply put, we’re the worst — and Tortorella’s not a patient man.

Fortunately, we wound up having several days to process the move. The result: by the time Tortorella was officially introduced via the Canucks’ press machine, nearly everyone had completed Kübler-Ross’s five stages.

This true even of the media, who knew their jobs were going to be a lot more stressful than during the Alain Vigneault era, where the most frustrating thing the coach did in his pressers was work on a lozenge a bit too close to the microphone.

And so we saw denial:


Ed Willes gave us this moody reaction piece, full of anger and depression.


There was bargaining:


And finally, there was acceptance:


By the time the John Tortorella rollout began, we’d been through the highs and lows already. Instead of outrage and shock, we were ready to listen. At the end of the day, most were, in the parlance of the lockout, cautiously optimistic. And Iain MacIntyre was quoting Jerry Maguire.

Granted, it helps that Tortorella was in full Stepford coach mode, saying all the right things because the Canucks pretty clearly unveiled a robot version of him to the media on Tuesday.

Think about it: did you seem him bleed at all? Sure, perhaps it’s because no one cut him. Or perhaps it’s because he’s a robot.

Although there were still hints that John Tortoreplica contained the brain of the original Tortorella. Here’s a clip that isn’t getting nearly enough play, as Don Taylor asks Tortorella about Alain Vigneault’s best approach to dealing with Larry Brooks and, in so doing, makes himself the leading candidate to be Brooks’ West Coast successor:

“You want me to try to rehab myself here and you start that crap,” says a visibly annoyed Tortorella, before his programming kicks back in and he re-initiates SMILING MODE. Oh ho ho, just some banter between friends!

I don’t want to read too much into a thirty-second clip, but if Tortorella nearly jumps down Don Taylor’s throat via satellite on a sunny day in June, we can probably expect him to have a few memorable blowups in the coming years. Also lending evidence to my suggestions: the fact that Tortorella’s best line of the day came in defence of his temper:

“Everyone says you should be a good loser,” he said. “If you’re a good loser, you’re a loser.”

I plan to recycle this line the next time I sweep the island of Catan onto the living room floor and my wife accuses me of being a bad sport.

All of this is to say that, while the mood in Vancouver appears to be surprisingly content thanks to Tortorella playing nice at his introductory presser and all the time we had to process that the presser was coming, I suspect this is still going to be a very bumpy ride.

Maybe it works out. But Tuesday was just the first date. Tortorella ticked off a lot of eHarmony boxes (“must love dogs“), but speaking of being ticked off, let’s wait until we see him like that.

That said, in the end, no one will care if Tortorella’s reverts to JERK MODE if he wins. But if he doesn’t, well, this could get nasty. Ask around, Torts: the people of Vancouver aren’t known for being good losers, either.


  1. Doop
    June 27, 2013

    I just want to see Tony Gallagher balk under this man’s abusive demeanour. Just one time.

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    • Kenji
      June 27, 2013

      Tony G is in with GMGM and won’t upset this applecart, unless the apples are already obviously scattered hither and thither.

      I thought maybe John Garrett would be the guy, the defiant opposition, but on radio t’other day was thoughtfully embracing the situation and saying that, well, on second thoughts, a veteran motivator might be the ticket given that he’s getting a veteran team of guys who sometimes seem to lack spark.

      And he likes dogs, right?

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  2. Holly
    June 27, 2013


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  3. Jensen
    June 27, 2013

    Willes and Gallagher are horrible and the majority of Vancouver media covering the Canucks aren’t much better. Time for some new blood that doesn’t just harp on every negative aspect to gain readers and stir up controversy. It’s transparent and unprofessional, and I can’t stand to read their garbage. If they started with facts and kept those in mind before bringing their negative and bitter opinions into it, maybe their articles wouldn’t look like they were written by a hack desperate for hits on their webpage.

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  4. Chinstrap Joe
    June 27, 2013

    If Tortorella brings us the cup, I could care less if he beats Botchford to death with the microphone stand and then urinates on his body during a presser. BRING. US. THE. CUP. DAMMIT.

    Loosen up, Vancouver.

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    • Nessie
      June 27, 2013

      Is there any reason he can’t do both?

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    • peanutflower
      June 27, 2013

      Yup, that is all. we want the cup. I saw the first damn Canucks game ever, and I’m still waiting.

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  5. Rituro
    June 27, 2013

    “John Tortoreplica”? Brilliant. I expect that name to be recycled numerous times.

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  6. whisky jack
    June 27, 2013

    it wasn’t long i had to wait
    already torts did irritate
    as yesterday he was so sweet
    when with the press he had to meet
    reminding me of a first date
    when i’d her parents to placate

    i combed my hair and shaved my beard
    so they’d not think me really weird
    and promised we’d be home by ten
    that i might take her out again
    of course when all was said and done
    we ne’er got back ’til after one

    thusly torts too will prove untrue
    his having done what he’d to do

    whisky jack

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  7. akidd
    June 28, 2013

    gee whiz, harrison. that article was a little antagonistic wasn’t it? i’m a little taken aback. was thinking about making a joke about the envelope being a little light this week but thought better of it:)

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  8. Tom 1040
    June 28, 2013

    As most are well aware, I no longer can bring myself to cheer for the Canucks though I really have no problem with the players – except for Kesler, Booth and the ‘old’ Luongo.

    Ballard is weak but he seems to be of good character.

    Once Gillis is gone, I will once again root for the home team though I will always try to be objective.

    Having said this, and trying to be objective, Tortorella is just the kind of coach that this team needs to get the most out of them.

    He/They won’t come close to winning a Cup, but with boring, boring, boring hockey they might just make the playoffs and prove me wrong on that point.

    As Dan Russell says, “he’ll take them out of their comfort zones.”

    Frankly, if the docile and, quite frankly, of limited hockey knowledge media in this town get their collective act together, then both good and challenging questions to the coach will benefit all concerned.

    If Tortorella gets uppity (sic?), then maybe the media might collectively grow a pair and be equal to the task.

    Either way, “Entertain me!”

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    • Doop
      June 28, 2013


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      • Tom 1040
        June 29, 2013

        Thanks, Doop. I always liked sarcasm.

        Though the intended target of another of your posts, I did enjoy your take on middle-age a while back.

        Well done.

        By the way, do you know much about hockey?

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