A Tale of Two Coaches

A Reunion of Sorts

When the New York Rangers come to Rogers Arena for Tuesday’s night’s, mostly, meaningless tilt with the Vancouver Canucks coming with them will be an old friend of the city and it’s team, former coach Alain Vigneault.

The estranged former coach of the Canucks, whose tenure lasted eight years and included one glorious run to within one game of the Stanley Cup, now has his new club poised for Stanley Cup contention in the widely considered open Eastern Conference.

Opposite him, both in terms of occupied space and approach to the game, will be the Rangers former bench boss, John Tortorella.

To say his first year with the Canucks has been one to forget is somewhat of an understatement, as the club is all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the first time in six years.

The sense, generally speaking, is that one fan-base has buyer’s remorse and it’s certainly not New York. Rather, the increasingly popular opinion is that the Rangers were the victors in this erroneously labeled “coaching swap”. If only it were that simple.

Try to remember, if you will, back to the early goings of this 2013-14 campaign when the Canucks were hailed the victors of this swap; amazing how time can change things. Interestingly enough, the only trade these two clubs really made was one that saw the Canucks taking on the Rangers stretch of PDO-induced bad luck in exchange for future considerations, that wound up being Raphael Diaz. Vancouver also got a fifth…

In all seriousness though, as the city of Vancouver starts to come to terms with what they had in Vigneault, after being wholly cruel and unfair to him last year, it’s interesting how quickly they’ve imparted this same judgement on the new boss. Two wrongs don’t make a right.


Miss ya, buddy.

It’s an entirely fair argument to say that, in today’s NHL, Tortorella’s ways are that of an esoteric breed of coach quickly being weeded out by a sea of more progressive coaches, like Alain Vigneault. On the one hand, this city and it’s team came to terms with a progressive mind, preaching controlled zone-entries and a possession game, with a newly found affection for strong zone deployments. They now have a coach who preaches dump and chase hockey, while never forgetting to stress the importance of “mindset”… whatever that means.

To say Tortorella can’t coach, now that’s an entirely different thing. There was a time and a place for his take on hockey and the proof, as they say, formed in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup-pudding. His garrulous motivational tactics allowed the Rangers, while still being shepherded by Glen Sather, to switch from being a free agent haven (and hell, depending on who you ask) to a team that developed through the draft.

Once upon a time, the tactics of Torts worked. But I, along with many others, are starting to wonder if those days have passed.

It often feels as though Tortorella is being left behind by an ever changing league, getting faster and more possession oriented than his shot-blocking mantra can ever hope to accommodate. This, is a fair critique.

But at the same time, one has to remember, that while Vigneault has been able to use that thing Vancouver used to have, depth I think it’s called, to spread out scoring throughout his lineup the same can not be said of the Canucks. They have, or used to have, a first line and a couple thirds to compliment it. When the Sedins and Alex Burrows took turns on the IR, the lack of secondary scoring made it nearly impossible for Tortorella to weather the storm.

Meanwhile, across the continent, neither Mats Zuccarello or Rick Nash so much as got a boo-boo, that we know of.

And while Tortorella was left to juggle a goaltending situation as stable as Kirstie Allie’s diet, Vigneault inherited Henrik Lundqvist.

It’s entirely fair to criticize Tortorella. Speaking frankly, I think his antiquated take on hockey has no place in today’s NHL. Then again, before you throw him under the bus so as to make room for your newly-found, yet painfully overdue, appreciation for the previous sheriff, take a few of these things into consideration.

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About J.D. Burke

Living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. the majority of his life, father introduced him to hockey at an early age and made sure his team was the Canucks. Eventually found himself loving the Seahawks. Masochistic much? Loves beer, novels, music, writing, long walks on the beach & sushi. "Be more like J.D." Connect with him today!
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