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Sticking up for each other is the new Canucks’ mantra

Jan 14, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Los Angeles Kings Getty Images

It’s amazing how a new coach, combined with a struggling power play and memories of past failures, can change the philosophy of a team.

To wit, the Vancouver Canucks, formerly a talented group of players that loved to draw penalties — sometimes by rather unsportsmanlike means, according to their detractors — because it could make an opponent pay on the scoreboard.

In the words of general manager Mike Gillis, from December of 2011: “There are some players who want to run around and hit guys from behind and that’s a league issue and it’s something the league is getting out of the game. If officials do their jobs, we will win games.”

But that was then, when the Canucks were coached by Alain Vigneault and had one of the best power plays in the NHL. Today, it’s John Tortorella behind the bench — a man with little trust in the officials’ ability to keep his opponents honest.

“If someone goes after the Sedins, other people have to step in,” said Tortorella in November. “That’s part of the game.”

And if that results in a penalty for the Canucks? “Guys are ready to step in, and we’d kill the penalty.”

And so we saw what happened last night in Los Angeles, when Tom Sestito challenged Jordan Nolan to a fight for taking a run at captain Henrik Sedin. When Nolan wasn’t willing to drop the gloves, Sestito started throwing punches anyway.

And what happened when Sestito’s actions led to a seven-minute Kings’ power play? Yep, you guessed it — Vancouver’s top-ranked penalty-killing unit killed it off.

Unfortunately for the Canucks, their 23rd-ranked power play went 0-for-4 and the Kings won the game, 1-0. But, per The Province, the quotes coming out of Vancouver’s dressing room were more evidence of the team’s change in “mindset,” a word Tortorella has used often since being hired in June.

“We didn’t really care about [going shorthanded],” said Henrik Sedin. “We did everything to stand up for each other and our goalie and for our teammates.

“We’ll kill those off any game.”

“A lot of guys stuck up for each other,” added Ryan Kesler, who earlier in the night had fought Kings captain Dustin Brown. Yes, the same Dustin Brown who ran over, and injured, Roberto Luongo in a previous meeting.

Will the Canucks’ new, take-things-into-their-own-hands philosophy pay off? That remains to be seen. They aren’t nearly as potent offensively as they were in 2010-11, the season they came a game away from winning the Stanley Cup, only to lose to the Boston Bruins, a team that — hey, do you think this is worth mentioning? — takes tremendous pride in its reputation for sticking up for each other.

Related: Torts: ‘Our team is not going to dive’

  1. lowenni - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I really think Torts was a great signing for them and that he’s a great coach. He may not have the best understanding of the game or offense out of all the coaches, but he really teaches a team to bring all the intangibles night in and night out that make a great team. If he can get the power play going and get them to score a bit more I think the Nucks could be one of the League’s best teams again.

    • sharknad0 - Jan 14, 2014 at 8:43 PM

      Nope !

  2. tronn25 - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Wonderful article Jason! Truly an unbiased masterpiece which, I’m sure only coincidentally, follows a handful of topics where the dirty nature of the Canucks is discussed at length.

    Moral victories are for coaches who lose, but still want to point out to the media that they tried hard and shouldn’t lose their jobs. While Tortorella’s mantra may be “Stick up for each other,” the rest of the coaches who will be keeping their jobs have the mantra of “win.” Sticking up for your teammates should be inherently instilled within every player on every team and not needed to be instructed by a coach.

    I hope Tortorella is only renting in Vancouver…

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      I mean, I’d rather have the 2 points from last night than the 2+5+game for Tom Sestito so you’re right in that respect.

      However implying that the Canucks play is going to get Tortorella fired or really, anything else you’ve written here is just hilariously off-base.

      Vaguely recalling your handle from other comment sections, I can’t say I’m surprised.

      • tronn25 - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        You sound like a guy who puts his chips inside his sandwich.

      • elvispocomo - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        My thoughts as well, no Kings bias there at all for a team also known for diving and at best borderline plays.

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        tronn25, I only sound like that because you haven’t quite learned not to read out loud yet.

    • imleftcoast - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Great game for the Kings. I loved the way they dumped the puck out for almost all the third period protecting the one goal lead. Sticking the knee out and making a late hit on the Canucks captain knowing the refs would be intimidated by the crowd and call 70 minutes in penalties against the Canucks, that’s championship hockey. With the history of running the Canucks captain and injuring Luongo, made for great irony. Got to love the Sutter system – it’s Cup or napfest this year for the Kings.

      If Sutter’s sending a tape to the league, maybe he should include these as context

      • patthehockeyfan - Jan 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        Seriously, imleftcoast? The Kings knew the refs would be intimidated by the crowd? And the Kings knew the refs would call 70 minutes in penalties? I’m afraid that, among Darryl Sutter’s many talents (many, many talents), fortune-telling isn’t one of them.

        As far as dumping the puck in the 3rd, the Kings are known for playing defensively and protecting a lead. I don’t see a problem with that.

        As far as your videos, I think if you contact Monty Python, you might be able to go back as far as the history of the world and maybe get one or two really old ones. They’ll probably show Brown kicking in utero.

        Look – the Canucks lost. Suck it up and deal with it.

      • imleftcoast - Jan 14, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Seriously, Pat? I don’t mind the loss. I don’t think it was a well-called game, and the refs made some calls after the crowd groaned and the Kings elaborated. If you actually watched the game, you would have seen that.

        The Kings couldn’t score 5-on-3 or on their 7 minute power play. Sutter’s system is boring, and indicates he doesn’t have enough talent to win. The Kings aren’t going more than a round or two in the playoffs. Suck it up and deal with that.

      • patthehockeyfan - Jan 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        Re: a round or two in the playoffs, you have the Kings confused with the Canucks.

        And, re: not enough talent to win:
        SC Champions 2012
        WC Finals 2013

      • scottybcboy - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:07 PM

        I too had issues with the refs…How could they have missed the blatant slew-foot by Weise? I notice that was not in your critique of the officiating! Lmfao!

      • scottybcboy - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:10 PM

        The Kings couldn’t score on the 5 on 3, but they did score, something the Nux obviously could not do!

      • ron05342 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:46 AM


        “Sutter’s system is boring, and indicates he doesn’t have enough talent to win.”

        The Kings are 4-0 against the Canucks this season. What does that say about your team?

  3. wingsfan97 - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I like it.just like the needs to start happening more often across the league

  4. joey4id - Jan 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    Why were so many outraged with Emery’s assault on Holtby, but no one said a word about Sestito attacking Nolan? Double standards perhaps….. Mr. Bettman, where are you? You said you didn’t like what you saw when Emery attacked Holtby. Why haven’t you said anything?

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      It’s probably because Emery had all the time and space in the world to beat the piss out of Holtby, added to the fact that goaltenders are pretty universally acknowledged to be non-fighters (Emery being the obvious exception who has tangled with legitimate heavyweights).

      Sestito on the other hand had words with Nolan before the whistle after Nolan took a pretty obvious run at Henrik Sedin (he’s usually good for one of those a game), and Nolan, being no stranger to fisticuffs (16 career NHL fights including one against Sestito earlier this year), would be expected by most to oblige. He didn’t and the officials were right there to end the fight.

      Seriously Joey I know you’re not too worried about the facts in general but you’re comparing an eight second altercation where one fighter turtled and refused to engage another fighter to a beatdown lasting over three times as long where one of the league’s best pound for pound fighters whaled on a goaltender.

    • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      I’m totally outraged at Sestito’s criminal attack on Nolan. Luckily, it was punished with a 7 minute power play and game misconduct. I’d be happy with supplemental discipline on top of it, and a suspension for Torts, who sent Sestito out to assault Nolan.

      I’m also outraged by the slew foot on Doughty — acknowledging that Doughty interefered with Weise to set up the incident. Should have been 2 minutes to Doughty and a 5 minute major and game misconduct to Weise.

      • imleftcoast - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        Outraged? Nolan is 6″ 3, and ran at Henrik Sedin with his leg out 10 seconds after the puck was gone.

      • joey4id - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:43 PM

        Take a look at Sestito’s face in the pic included above. This is not a good image for a league that prides itself on doing all it can to minimize concussions. How can they be taken seriously of they don’t take additional discipline against Sestito? The only difference with this attack and the Thronton/Orpik incident are the consequences of the acts. This is where Yzerman, Bowman, Rutherford, and Shero need to step up.

      • imleftcoast - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:48 PM

        How about Greene’s hip toss? It’s certainly more worthy of suspension than telling a 6″3 guy to get ready to fight after his cheap shot on your captain.

      • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        Yes. Outraged. And he missed Sedin, although if he hit him it probably would have been interference or boarding, and I’d be absolutely fine with the appropriate call for that and potential suspension.

        Doesn’t mean he should later be subject to a criminal assault.

      • vanyesno - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:42 PM

        If you think that is a criminal attack you clearly do not know hockey.

      • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:47 PM

        Really. What do you know about my hockey experience and background? I understand lots of hockey “fans” who’ve never laced on skates or played at any level beyond juniors like to see this as part of the game. What happened here? One guy doesn’t want to fight and another guy attacks him. That’s a criminal act and needs to come out of the game.

      • vanyesno - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:01 PM

        If you act like a clown, own up. Nolan stuck his leg out on one of our best players. The fact that he thought he could not drop the gloves after that nonsense is the real issue here. He knew from the moment Tom lined up with him what was about to happen. Nolan is 6’3 and over 215 pounds, he is not a defenseless puppy.

      • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:16 PM

        Last I checked the object of the game is to score more goals, so I’m not clear on why Nolan has a moral responsibility to fight Sestito or how that gets a puck in the net for Vancouver, which *newsflash* lost the game — in no small part because it spent 7 minutes fending off a power play.

        In any event, Henrik is 6’2″, so big enough to take on Nolan himself if he’s so bothered by an unsuccessful attempt to him him.

        Conceded, of course, that had Nolan hit Sedin it would have been interference or boarding and subject to the appropriate penalty for doing so.

  5. tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Yes. Brilliant strategy — criminally attack a guy and earn your team 7 minutes of defending a power play, depriving yourself of any opportunity to score during that time, and requiring a huge expenditure of energy to prevent the other team from scoring 1 or 2 goals.

    Sharks fan here, so no dog in this fight — I despise both teams equally and think both have more than their fair share of floppers and cheap shot artists (and I recognize the Sharks have their fair share of the former and we can debate about the latter).

    The NHL needs to start disciplining coaches for sent Sestito out to start a fight. Ultimately, of course, this sort of decisionmaking translates into losses, so he will eventually pay with his job.

    • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Whoops. “coaches like Torts who sent Sestito out to start a fight.”

    • vanyesno - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      fighting is a part of the game. if you do not understand that, I suggest you watch another sport, like knitting.

      • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        Fighting in the heat of battle has been part of the game, true and was when I played. That doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean that a player should be subject to a one-sided assault. Ask Ken Dryden. Fighting will be gone in our lifetimes, so get used to it.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      Just go away.

      • tdaveniii - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:11 PM

        Why do you say that?

  6. csilojohnson - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    2014 Kings are not much different then the Cup team a couple years ago.
    Boring yes. Effective yes.

  7. shaundre93 - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    It’s funny to hear all these Canucks fans who whined and whined about the Bruins bullying their way to the cup in ’11 get all hard about Tortorella and his “philosophy”. Championship caliber teams don’t need 4th line goons to protect stars. They need an entire team willing to do it. Remember when there was that line brawl between Van and Bos a couple years ago and the B’s top line beat the snot out of the Canucks 4th line for jumping Thornton? That’s a team right there. They don’t feed the media with bs about how they have each others back, they do it. Just when I was starting to not hate the Canucks this crap happens… No cups coming to Van city in the foreseeable future. Get the swat teams ready!!

    • vanyesno - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      shaundre93 – we only riot when its the Stanley cup.

  8. rocoop - Jan 14, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    LA KINGS jealousy..I love it! I thrive on it! Keep it coming….BTW, mighty Vancouver is 0-4 against the Kings this year…No wonder everybody is crying..

  9. ron05342 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    You gotta love the Canucks’ new strategy…act like the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s, but not quite getting there…zero goals in the game.

    I can see them going 0-82 next season and being deliriously happy with themselves.

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