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:
Hockey operations merit aside, hiring of John Tortorella as new head coach simply doesn’t fit @VanCanucks brand strategy of past decade…
— Tom Mayenknecht (@TheSportMarket) June 21, 2013
Ed Willes gave us this moody reaction piece, full of anger and depression.
Column here on Tortorella hiring. A bad idea that just got a whole lot worse. http://t.co/9Dt7ctMMNk
— Ed Willes (@willesonsports) June 21, 2013
There was bargaining:
If #Canucks hire Tortorella, it behooves us scribes to give him a clean slate on media relations. But it’s on him to be a human being.
— Cam Cole (@rcamcole) June 21, 2013
And finally, there was acceptance:
Very interested to see how Tortorella fits with #Canucks. Not willing to write off hiring before he coaches a game. Could be kind of fun.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) June 23, 2013
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.