The hiring of John Tortorella as Head Coach of the Vancouver Canucks was somewhat controversial right from the beginning.
Tortorella's colourful background, his difficult relationship with the media, his penchant for distracting histrionics coupled with his record which includes a Stanley Cup win make him controversial by nature. He acknowledged as much in his early interviews after being hired. Even the odd coincidence of Tortorella and Former 'Nucks bench boss Alain Vigneault having replaced one another seemed to intensify the spotlight.
Early results of the change were mixed. The typically slow starting Canucks were true to form out of the gate, going 5-4-1 in their first ten games. They improved towards the end of October, only to go 4-5-4 through November. Then came December and a 10-1-2 run that had Canucks fans thinking about a spring playoff run.
Then the calendar turned and the wheels fell off. A 4-9-2 January gave way to a 1-4-1 February, including between the two months the longest losing skid the franchise had suffered through since the last millennium! The Vancouver Sun correctly laid the blame at the feet of the Head Coach. (Tortorella to blame)
Tortorella, despite his early promise to rein in his volatile nature, got himself suspended for a fortnight for trying to attack an opposing coach in his dressing room between periods prior to the Olympic break.
He further irritated fans with his expressed wish that Sweden beat Canada for the Olympic gold medal.
Despite all this, I was prepared to still give Torts the benefit of the doubt for a little while longer.
But his decision to start Eddie Lack in the stadium game, as well as all games since the break, is ill advised and needlessly provocative. Yes, Lack has played well and has slightly better stats than Bobbie Lu (as many back ups do over their starter). But Luongo has played well and is not to blame for the team's woes. A pronounced inability to score is the root of the problem, as any keen observer of the game can tell you. Under Tortorella team offence, in decline since the 2009-2010 season, despite leading the league in 2010-2011, has cratered.
The last thing this team needed was another goaltending controversy. Luongo remains basically untradeable, thanks to a contract that is years too long. Making him miserable will do nothing to help team morale. Rising star netminder Corey Schneider was traded at a fire sale price, due to a soft market for goalies, in order to put an end to the conflict and free up some cap space.
With one eminently stupid decision Tortorella has put the team right back where it was and made the Bo Horvat sacrifice a meaningless one.
Why wait till spring? Fire the coach now.