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On Canucks’ style of play, Torts accuses critics of ignorance

Apr 4, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

David Booth, John Tortorella, Zack Kassian, Henrik Sedin AP

The day after Canucks general manager Mike Gillis went on the radio and promised to “get back to the fundamentals and principles” in which he believes — specifically, an “up-beat, puck-possession, move-the-puck quickly, force-teams-into-mistakes, high-transition game” — coach John Tortorella said he’d prefer to keep any detailed discussions about the team’s style of play an internal matter.

In other words, no comment.

But Tortorella did have something to say to all those who believe the style he’s been teaching the Canucks doesn’t suit the players on the roster.

“I’m not going to go into specifics, but I venture to guess the people that say that really don’t know what we’re teaching as far as the coaching style,” he said.

Then, addressing the reporters around him, Tortorella added, “Somewhere along the line, maybe all of us, at the end of the year we can sit down at a roundtable and you can tell me what you think the style is. And I’d be more than happy to do that, because I don’t think many people really do know what the style is.”

(If true, one might ask in response, what does it say about the job the coach has done that the people who watch the team every day for a living still can’t tell what he’s trying to teach?)

Despite the challenge to reporters, Tortorella did admit to making a “huge mistake” in January when Vancouver started its precipitous slide out of a playoff spot.

“The responsibility that was lost was me in not keeping my foot on the pedal,” he said. “I had to make an adjustment when we were banged up. I had to. But the responsibility falls on me in not getting back quick enough to the style I think we should play.”

You can listen to the audio here.

—- Is Tortorella’s system to blame for Canucks’ woes?
—- Three things the Canucks haven’t done well under Torts
—- ‘They play so slow,’ says scout on Torts-coached Canucks

  1. bleedrangerblue - Apr 4, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Torts stinks says Hagelin…

  2. pigeonbutt - Apr 4, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    There is no doubt that Torts knows far more about the game and its structure than 99.9% of his detractors. But professional hockey at the end of the day is about entertainment. People like winning or at least getting to see an exciting match where after the sting off the loss fades you can admit it was a competitive tilt.

    The Canucks have failed to offer either under Torts. They have failed to demonstrate that the system is a work in progress with a positive future. And every paying customer has a right to weigh in on obvious failure.

    • pigeonbutt - Apr 4, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      Because apparently I’m not done:

      I attended the Winter Classic game against Ottawa. Even before the game started the talk was purely about Lack getting the start. After the Canucks predictably lost after surrendering the lead, all focus entirely went to management. No one leaving that arena was focusing on player performance. All of the talk about the team hardly included the actual players. This of course only heightened after the Luo trade.

      There is a serious problem when people’s “entertainment” from the game is discussing the front office.

    • wtfkwp - Apr 4, 2014 at 7:43 PM

      In short, you don’t need to know how to cook to know the food stinks.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      torts high pressure on the forecheck defend like crazy system could work, it’s just that it results in lots of injuries and for a team that travels like vancouver, they need to be managed accordingly since they don’t have the same time to recover as teams in the east. they also don’t have the depth to sustain such a system.

      MG and Torts are both right. Torts’ system should have stayed high speed and not compromised in that respect when all the injuries happened (3 in one game really killed the team – 2 players from the top line in one game), which MG might have appreciated a full on press in the offensive zone. Torts was right that the team didn’t have guys that could step into the breach when the injuries came.

  3. 2qswing - Apr 4, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    “(If true, one might ask in response, what does it say about the job the coach has done that the people who watch the team every day for a living still can’t tell what he’s trying to teach?)”

    Regardless of what you think of Torts,the arrogance of reporters never ceases to amaze me. This comment by the author is exhibit A. He just assumes that to his readers it is a given that he and his colleagues are all keen observers of the game. All-knowing experienced experts. Well if you have listened to post or pre game pressers by this crowd you would know this is not the case.
    So Jason my answer to your question as posed is this…. It says that half the people covering the Canucks don’t know what they are watching anyway and couldn’t identify a “style of play” if their life depended on it.
    Criticize Torts all you want. He brings it on himself most of the time. But spare me your collegues self-proclaimed expertise on style of play.

    • Jason Brough - Apr 4, 2014 at 6:05 PM

      Haha…fair comment.

    • imleftcoast - Apr 4, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      If you’re a self-proclaimed mad genius but an utter failure and no one understands what you’re doing, that makes you Frankenstein – not Einstein. It might be a brilliant system (even a stopped clock is right twice a day), but his boss, the players, other coaches and GMs, the media and the fans are not seeing it. They all may be wrong, but he has to do more to defend his system than just say no one understands it. And if he wants a discussion, it should be about the evidence of why he deserves a second season.

      • kaptaanamerica - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        uh, actually, dr. frankenstein was a genius. the good doctor wasn’t mad, or a failure.

      • imleftcoast - Apr 4, 2014 at 9:16 PM

        The Canucks Cup hopes are dead and cold, put Frankenstein on the coaching candidates list.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      exactly right. you only have to listen to guys like Botch, Chapman, etc… or any the morons out east to know they have no clue.

      Dreger, toronto sun, toronto star, hosea something or other etc… reporters are so clueless about what goes in Vancouver it has ceased to be remotely funny.

    • c9castine - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      i look at it differently. journalists, reporters what have you, are payed to pose questions and write articles that may merely for the purpose of spurring thought, or a specific reaction, or playing devils advocate if you will. Jason Brough doesnt exactly strike me as Joe Haggerty worthless, althought he clearly has a bit of an agenda against Torts.

      But I think that question nails it. If your coaching one style of play but a ridiculous amount of people are seeing another one unfold on the ice, and statistics are backing it up…well that doesnt say too much about your ability to coach a team right now.

      And just maybe your only saying this to save yourself after your GM just came out and basically confirmed what Jason has been writing about.

      • c9castine - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        and remember not everybody here is a complete hockey novice/strictly a fan.

        now dont get me wrong, not saying i know what these guys know or whatever. have the insight that they have. but ive been around the game a long enough time and at various levels that i can call a spade a spade.

        doesnt take a genius.

  4. mackstrong2013 - Apr 4, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    Missing the playoffs is the best thing that could have happened to this team, wish it would have happened 2 years ago. So, in part, thanks Torts. His style can win, I have no doubt in that. However, going from the old style to this style with minimal personnel changes, well you all know how that went.

  5. bilbono - Apr 4, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    Poor Torts

    First the Canucks management fires Alain for reasons I still don’t understand. Then, they bring in John for a different style of play, and now they publicly announce their dissatisfaction with his style? That kind of conversation needs to be kept between the coach, GM, and owner. Unprofessional!

    • clarke16 - Apr 4, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      Absolutely true. Not just unprofessional–but dysfunctional…

      Look–I don’t have a horse in this race…but the reality is that when you have a leadership structure where the ownership micromanages the decision-making process and forces the guy (Gillis) who by his title SHOULD have the authority to go along with the accountability–but doesn’t…that’s d-y-s-f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n-a-l. You fans use him as the whipping boy because you’re generally good, knowledgeable fans who know hockey in Vancouver and you see something’s very wrong–but you’re flogging the wrong dog here…

      Gillis went public with his thoughts because he’s had enough of taking the prong from the fans for decisions he didn’t make and would never agree with. He set up an ultimatum for the owners to choose who will remain–him or their guy Torts–whom he doesn’t share any fundamental philosophies with on what style of hockey you deliver on the rink. It’s the OWNER you should all be pissed beyond belief with. THEY are who created this train wreck.

  6. savior72 - Apr 4, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    I guess his coaching style is TOP SECRET, and if he told you, he’d have to kill you.

  7. wtfkwp - Apr 4, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    The “critics” aren’t the ones who tanked a fairly decent hockey team (in decline, but pretty decent before Torts got ahold of them.)

  8. joey4id - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Well! Here’s what most of us know. Mike Gillis promised to “get back to the fundamentals and principles” specifically, an “up-beat, puck-possession, move-the-puck quickly, force-teams-into-mistakes, high-transition game”.

    So, it’s safe to say that Torts is clearly not teaching the style of play that the GM promises the team will get back to. Gillis also said that only those who are willing to go back to that style of play will stay with the team. In other words, Torts will probably be gone next year because he doesn’t strike me like a coach who will teach someone else’s style of play. They will agree to disagree (the stage is set for a graceful exit) and separate amicably. It’s going to be Gillis’ way or the highway.

    • c9castine - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:49 PM

      hes in denial.

      and yes, like you said, way way way too stubborn and thickheaded for his own good.

      • joey4id - Apr 5, 2014 at 9:55 AM

        Hey! I really don’t give a crap what you think. You’re level of knowledge about the game is below average. You should read ‘hockey for dummies’. You and ibidinijad. Oh. Wait! Ibidinijad doesn’t like to be informed. Sure sign of ignorance.

  9. sabatimus - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    Hey Tortellini: your team’s play speaks for itself.

  10. c9castine - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:47 PM


    So let me get this straight. People are ignorant, because they dont really know what they are actually coaching.

    OK buddy, that might be true, but only a dumba$$ doesnt realize that actually makes you look worse. While (like somebody else said) most people are ignorant despite thinking they know it all (joey4id) there isnt a whole lot of gray matter in this one. We have 75 games worth of observation in vancouver and another what, 200 games or something in New York. What we see, it aint workin.

    Saying your teaching your players to do one thing and they are doing another is not exactly telling anybody off here.

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