This photo is from November. Tortorella was making this face by November.
The Canucks wasted no time in firing Mike Gillis, showing him the door on April 8, one night after the fans in Rogers Arena called for him to go, and three games prior to the end of the season.
It was easy to see why they moved with such haste. With season ticket renewals slow, the team needed to do something to reinvigorate the fanbase, and since the team on the ice didn’t seem capable of it, it was time to usher everyone into the panic room.
The panic room is probably a bad name for what’s really just an all-encompassing, black-and-yellow, 1994-themed party room. It’s like a panic room, in that it shuts out the outside world, but that’s really just to ensure that nothing from the yucky present encroaches on the illusion that you’re back in the mid-nineties, when the black Power Ranger was black and the yellow Power Ranger was Vietnamese. (It was a simpler time.)
Trevor Linden is there. Kirk McLean is there. Pat Quinn is there. “I know, I know,” they coo comfortingly, stroking your hair gently and telling tale of Pavel Bure’s overtime winner versus Calgary, “2014 was stressful. But you’re back now, safe and sound in the year 1994.”
The ruse is thorough. Canucks.com is nothing but pictures and interviews with guys who used to play here. The only thing stopping you from thinking it’s a website from 1994 is that there are pictures surrounding the text.
“Take a look at banner, Michael!“ the ghosts of ’94 would say if your name was Michael, pointing to a photo of the Linden and Bure banners in the Rogers Arena rafters. “Hush now, child, and think not of how we lost this year, and how mad it made you. Think instead of that other time we lost, twenty years ago, and how proud it made you.”
And, enchanted by the allure of what all Vancouver hockey fans can agree was the franchise’s best year (even though 2011 was obviously better in pretty much every way, but we still feel bad about it, so let’s not talk about it), you might be tempted to renew your season tickets.
Anyway. This is why the Canucks needed to remove Mike Gillis in such short order. He was blocking the door to the panic room.
But the team has been a lot slower to make a decision on John Tortorella.
— Torts Fired Yet? (@firetorts14) April 25, 2014
It’s now been just under two weeks since the season ended, and we’ve heard nothing regarding what most believe will be his dismissal. Why is that? Here are five possible explanations.
Tortorella’s not getting fired. This is a distinct possibility. He’s still got four years left on his contract, and the way this year went, if he loses this job, you really have to wonder if he’s going to get a new one in that time. If he doesn’t, the Canucks are paying a lot of money for a guy to sit at home.
Furthermore, it really is quite possible that Tortorella was never on the way out. All year long, there were rumours that he was an Aquilini guy, and true or not then, the removal of Mike Gillis may be an indication that he’s an Aquilini guy now. If Tortorella’s not going anywhere, then there’s nothing to report, which may be why we haven’t heard anything.
Tortorella’s not Trevor Linden’s problem. Linden’s primary focus right now, apart from learning the job and buying the perfect high-backed, swivelling, leather desk chair, is hiring a General Manager. That search has reportedly begun, and that may be where all the focus is. Linden may want a GM in place before the decision on Tortorella, so the complete management team can make it together.
Or it could be that Linden would prefer to install a GM, and give him the wheel, letting the new guy steer the on-ice direction of the franchise. “Welcome to the team,” Linden might say. “Your first order of business: fire that guy.”
The Canucks are in wait-and-see mode. It’s probably not fair to Tortorella to be left in limbo, but it’s also not really the end of the world. It’s not like he’s in his office right now, working on the gameplan for next October. He’s on vacation. So the Canucks have a little time here to see what happens in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Here’s a scenario: the Pittsburgh Penguins get ousted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, and Dan Bylsma is shown the door. Maybe then the Canucks are a little swifter to uninstall Tortorella? A lot can change in the hockey world in short order.
But if none of the changes are to Vancouver’s liking, maybe they stick with their guy.
Tortorella’s just not answering his phone. You know how it is. There’s an awkward conversation coming and you don’t want to have it, so you just sort of… don’t. When the phone rings, you don’t pick up. You let the voicemail get full. You go off the grid for awhile, hoping the conversation will just sort of go away, and when you re-emerge from your cone of silence, saying something vague like, “sorry I haven’t been around, there’s been a lot of stuff going on,” the other party will be so relieved that you’re not dead that they’ll welcome you back with open arms. Maybe Tortorella’s doing that?
The Canucks just forgot. Two months from now, Linden will bolt upright in bed and be like, “Oh man! I was supposed to fire Tortorella months ago. DAMMIT. This job is so hard.”