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How much will Tortorella change the Canucks?

Aug 13, 2013, 8:19 PM EDT

tortscanucksgetty Getty Images

Once it became clear that John Tortorella was primed to take over the head coaching gig for the Vancouver Canucks, many assumed that he’d transform the squad into the New York Rangers of the Pacific Northwest.

The fiery coach seemed to embolden such thoughts when he insisted that the Sedin twins will kill penalties and maybe even block shots. Ryan Kesler added more fuel to the fire when he told the media that Tortorella will “expect more from everybody.”

While we’ll only really know once the games begin – or maybe only after a full season – it’s quite possible that the changes won’t be as drastic as people expect.

Player roles

As ESPN Insider’s Neil Greenberg reviewed (subscription required), Tortorella and former Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault do indeed tend to deploy top forwards differently when it comes to where they begin shifts. Those preferences might mean a shift in advanced stats, yet the alterations in goals and assists may not be that substantial.

Tortorella admitted that he didn’t get the most out of top scorers after the 2013 playoffs, but it’s likely that Vancouver’s offensive identity will remain largely the same next season. (The long-term outlook could be fuzzier, however.)


Tortorella certainly didn’t deny his love of shot-blocking, but it could be crucial to take personnel into account when considering his approach. When he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2000-01 to 2007-08, the Bolts only finished in the top 15 in shot-blocking once (when they ranked 12th with 507 total in 2007-08).

Maybe he required Rangers players to put their bodies on the line because he didn’t believe that he really had the roster to dominate puck possession and win in more finesse-driven ways?

Regardless, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tortorella views Kesler as the new Ryan Callahan: his do-everything, all-around American forward.

Penalty-killing Sedins?

Maybe Tortorella doesn’t believe in players specializing quite as much as Vigneault does, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the Sedins’ penalty kill time remains limited.

For all the bluster, Tortorella hasn’t made that big of a habit of employing top scorers on the penalty kill.

In 2013, Rick Nash averaged 31 seconds of PK time while Brad Richards notched six seconds per contest. Henrik Sedin‘s nine seconds per game eclipses Richards’ mark, too.


It’s likely that Tortorella will make some changes to the way the Canucks play, yet it’s reasonable to flip that notion and state that Vancouver’s roster might alter his outlook in equal proportions.

Flexibility is an underrated trait found among many of the league’s best thinkers, so don’t be surprised if the Canucks’ new coach ends up being more open-minded to changing his ways than many expect.

He’ll probably continue to conduct hilariously uncomfortable press conferences, though.

  1. stinkpretty1 - Aug 13, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Whos gonna be the first “star” traded from? All coaches are good in this league, you just gotta buy into the system. Torts draws alot of attention as being the modern Mike Keenan, which is not bad. Keenan has a cup, Torts also has a cup.

    Many former players of Scotty Bowman said they hated him, but RESPECTED him!

    • 950003cups - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:35 AM

      As a Devils fan, I’ve watched a lot of Torts. He is very in to blue collar / lunch pail type work. He uses the middle type guys to set he tone and he expects the “star” players to follow. If Vancouver has those body bangers and shot blocker types that’ll do anything to play and win, he’ll be successful, but if the stars dont by in its over for him, or the star types.

    • kaptaanamerica - Aug 14, 2013 at 7:26 AM

      Torts is the reset of the organization/ team that needed to take place.he will make players accountable for the ice time they more AV favourites getting away with Shiite play and getting chances over and over again.

  2. 19to77 - Aug 13, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Many things is John Tortorella, but subtle not one of them.

  3. loinstache - Aug 13, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    My biggest wish from Torts is that he brings consistency and accountability. Too often in the past two seasons Canucks fan watched a team that rarely showed up for 60 mins (last season was absolutely abysmal for this), and their preparation into the playoffs was clearly lackluster.

  4. gmenfan1982 - Aug 13, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    As a Rangers fan, and a Torts fan (although I do wish he let top players in NY open it up more), I’m VERY interested in seeing what he does in Vancouver. And I for one, think that AV is going to fit with this Ranger team VERY well.

    • barkar942 - Aug 13, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      I, as a Ranger and a Torts fan Hope he does well with the Canucks. However, AV is going to have to prove he can get the Rangers to play 60 minutes a night. Torts took the tough love role and they still wouldn’t show up for a whole game. Will a gentler and kinder coaching style of AV get them to show up?
      I have to wait and see. Personally, I don’t think they will.

      • imleftcoast - Aug 14, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        They are both one note guys. Anyone can yell and scream. I’d rather have someone cerebral behind the bench. With players this good, give them a system, a power play and make the lines, and then let them play. I don’t think they need to be micro-managed by some guy with a big ego.

  5. davebabychreturns - Aug 13, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    The Canucks started pretty poorly nearly every year under Alain Vigneault, this should change substantially given they’ll be heading into “Camp Torturella” this year instead of waiting until opening night to even get the vets on the ice together.

    Discipline has also been a pretty big problem for the Canucks over the years, everyone likes to talk about this team tries to sell calls (and certainly players like Burrows and Kesler and Lapierre have deservedly awful reputations in this area) but they are never among the leaders in fewest time shorthanded and it’s often on stupid penalties 100+ feet from their own net – look to see those cut down drastically as well.

  6. blomfeld - Aug 14, 2013 at 12:03 AM


    the bottom line is that this is guaranteed to now be a ‘gong show’ here in Vancouver … and you gotta love that man ! :) … my only concern is that the Sedin brothers will likely be caught up in the coming mayhem … but hopefully they can somehow find a way to escape before it’s too late, God willing …

    • badintent - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:02 AM

      my music film flix fan.Good to see you have used the summer to prepare for the long NHL season. I am getting delicious peaches from my new neighbor’s farm in Peachland.Still here in the North Shore ghetto.Must send some peaches to Coach John. So he can throw them at the players during practice !!! For missing checks ! hahahahhaha !

  7. hockeyflow33 - Aug 14, 2013 at 12:48 AM

    My only problem with this article is that you cited ESPN as a hockey source

  8. BurkieInBoston - Aug 14, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    Torts should put dresses in Burrows & Lapierre’s lockers at the start of training camp to set the tone that their cowardly drama queen tactics won’t be part of his program.

    • davebabychreturns - Aug 14, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      The Canucks didn’t offer Max Lapierre a contract, but just like your namesake you’re not letting facts get in the way of a good story, so kudos I guess…

    • bigblackzaranek - Aug 14, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      I like how the video brings up Bertuzzi, yet i have yet to meet a bruins fan that owns up for Mcsorley’s “incident”.

      • BurkieInBoston - Aug 15, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        Count me as one! McSorley lost the status to call himself a “Bruin” w/that cowardly act. Did Brashear ever get revenge on him?

        PS F McSorley.

      • badintent - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:06 AM

        no, Marty retired. Brashear got arrested for assault on a fellow tenant in the common laundry room. Caught the guy stealing his jockstrap.RCMP report

  9. bensonj11 - Aug 14, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    I know this is not on the topic of Tortorella but I am curious so if you have input please let me know. Anyways as a new fan in love with hockey I was wondering what the hate for the Canucks is for, in general. I’ve watched the Sedins and know they are by no means big bodies or physical but why the hate? I would like to be enlightened so if you could help awesome!

    • imleftcoast - Aug 14, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      Are you familiar with the term ‘trolling’?

    • zacmelvinmcnutt - Aug 14, 2013 at 6:22 PM

      Hmmmmmmm… where to begin…..

    • badintent - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      How does $ 100 million in salary for 2 guys that never throw body checks in a playoff game ? How about getting shut out in the LA series two years ago ? We could go on but we don’t have two weeks .

  10. zacmelvinmcnutt - Aug 14, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    If there’s anything positive that I see Torts bringing to Vancouver it’s that he won’t stand for his players diving and embellishing all the time, especially in the playoffs. Burrows and Kesler will have a hard time adjusting to this

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