Torts on Torts
John Tortorella’s initial press conference in Vancouver has been anticipated since rumours first began to swirl that he would take the Canucks coaching job.
Torts, as you should be well aware by now, does not hold his tongue in the heat of the moment when discussing players or journalists and his relationship with one of the toughest media markets in North American sports has been the focus of any conversation about him.
Tuesday, the Canucks officially announced a five year deal with Tortorella and promptly sent him on a media blitz that had you wondering if he had a movie opening on Friday: An internet Q&A with Mike Gillis and John Shorthouse in the morning, a press conference at lunch, and an interview on TEAM 1040 in the afternoon.
It was a deliberate move by the team to familiarize the market with John Tortorella the man and not John Tortorella the sound bite.
And for a day, it worked. Here was an honest, candid coach talking about his own shortcomings in New York both on and off the ice. Here was a man who seemed to understand the expectations of this market, that yearning thirst for a cup.
He’s a dog lover, loves the sea wall, and understands the Canucks role in the community. Mike Gillis brought his new boyfriend over for dinner with his millions of parents and he made quite the first impression.
But this is day one, and the measuring stick on Tortorella is not how he conducts himself in interview but rather what kind of results he can produce on the ice.
To that end, the seeds for success or failure in the 2013-2014 season were hinted at throughout the day.
The Learning Curve
Any new job, even with previous experience, comes with unique challenges and methods that take a while to master. This will be no different for Torts and two issues were brought up Tuesday.
The first was the travel. There will be no more bus rides for Torts, replaced instead by multi-hour flights and jet lag. Managing these effects not only on himself but on his team is something that Tortorella has never experienced.
The second was his admission to Cam Charron that he doesn’t use advanced stats, something the Canucks have been known for in the Mike Gillis era.
It’s an area that Gillis vowed to bring Torts up to speed on in a post-conference scrum, and it should be interesting to see how much the coach buys in.
The biggest takeaway of the lunch conference occured when Tortorella mentioned the Sedins would be killing penalties, and they would be blocking shots.
This defensive line of work is out of sync with their specialized deployment in the AV era and it will be interesting to see how they take to it.
The Sedins for their part are up for it, and as old age diminishes their chances of ever winning an Art Ross again, perhaps a retooling of their skillset can only be a good thing.
As Torts put it, a little development of their game can go a long way to winning a championship.
Calling out Edler
In his post-conference scrum, Tortorella mentioned that in conversations with Mike Gillis, it was agreed that Alex Edler had to be better.
Very few people would disagree that Edler’s season was a sleepwalk, and Torts has had success in New York grooming Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonaugh. It was interesting to see the coach already calling out a player in the media on day one.
The most telling line of the conference occured when Tortorella mentioned that he hates losing, saying “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
And this is the crux of hockey in Vancouver: A) The franchise tends to lose and, B) We don’t react well when they do, up to, and including criminal activity.
It’s why Torts might just find his niche in Vancouver, the only man who could possibly match the fanbase’s intense desire to win.
It’s also why for all his talk of being a changed and mellow man, the first losing streak of November will be a telling in how he reacts. Again, it’s very easy to talk a pretty game in late June.
The hockey knock on Torts is that he’s not the up-tempo offensive coach Gillis has always dreamed about, and Tuesday gave him a chance to address that.
Pointing to Chicago as a team that both collapses and has a dynamic offensive, Torts stressed that offensive and defence aren’t mutually exclusive terms, but sometimes if the offensive off the rush isn’t there, you have to rely on other factors.
The trick is to be a complete team, however best you can achieve that. So I guess the question is, how does Torts believe the Canucks can achieve that?
With a coach in place and the playoffs finally officially over, a very intriguing offseason begins for the Canucks that will either put them back at the top of the Western Conference or see the team fall further into the parity pack.
With compliance buyouts now on the table and draft and free agency day almost here, a picture will start to take place of just what exactly this next iteration of Canucks hockey will look like.
After one day, we can safely say the plane hasn’t crashed into the mountain yet.