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The case for John Tortorella

There's a growing sense that the former Blueshirt bench boss could make his next home in Vancouver, and it may be the right move for a team that's a little too comfortable.

JT on his suit and tie shit
JT on his suit and tie shit
James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Okay, so the 2013 New York Rangers were a bit of a mess.

They couldn't score. They played a defensive block-every-shot system that relied too heavily on their goaltender and wore on their players. They traded struggling star Marian Gaborik and benched a former Conn Smythe winner for two playoff elimination games.

A far cry from the "Safe is Death" mantra he touted in Tampa Bay, watching John Tortorella's Rangers actually made death seem like a desirable option.

But that in no way means he's a bad coach, and doesn't really have anything to do with the Vancouver Canucks.

Tortorella was spotted at Rogers Arena on Tuesday, reportedly interviewing with Mike Gillis for the vacant head coach position. This scenario was correctly predicted by Elliotte Friedman the week before in his 30 Thoughts column:

Does John Tortorella get an interview in Vancouver? Canucks GM Mike Gillis said in his season-ending media conference that breaking up the team's core wasn't high on his list of priorities. Vancouver has, what, a three-year window with that group? Tortorella took a beating last week. But other NHL executives don't dislike him as much as the media does. They will tell you he is perfect for a "win-now" situation.

There's been this comfortable notion since Alain Vigneault was fired that the Canucks should hire a true "players coach". Someone who would walk in and with a few face-to-face meetings and a couple marks on a lineup card get the club back on track and develop all the young players into stars.

There's only one problem with that idea: the Canucks don't have any young players. At least, not any who are ready to shoulder significant roles with the club. They're not Paul MacLean's Senators.

Perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Canucks are in a "win-now" situation. That's why they didn't hire Dallas Eakins, an impressive-yet-inexperienced option.

Most dismissed Tortorella as a realistic option for the Canucks as soon as he was dismissed by the Rangers. The grave dancing from the New York media and the perception that his players were sick of him didn't help Torts' image. But as Friedman points out above, being disliked by the media doesn't blacklist you from anyone within the game. Dealing with reporters and winning hockey games have zero correlation.

When Tortorella joined the Rangers, they were a young team lacking offensive firepower and discipline in their game. The low event, throw-yourself-in-front-of-every-shot style Tortorella implemented was born out of necessity. All any NHL coach can do is work with what they have, and Torts didn't have much.

That's not the case in Vancouver. If Tortorella's firing in New York came from failing to adapt his system once he had more offensive firepower, he should know exactly what he has in Vancouver. The core is skilled and experienced. They're in need of a new message, and there's little doubt that when he's at his most effective John Tortorella knows how to deliver a message.

After experiencing a great deal of relative success and flirting with history, this core group of Canucks players is starting to get a little soft around the midsection. They were able to enjoy an atmosphere in which they policed themselves while the coach put them in the best possible position to succeed. They earned that right from Alain Vigneault. Now they need to earn it from somebody else. Earning it from Tortorella would be a hell of a task, and it may be enough to push this group over the top.

The other aspect of this is that with Tortorella at the helm, the Canucks would instantly become the most hatable team in the NHL again. The last time they held that distinction they were pretty effective.

At best, the Canucks hav a 2 – 3 year window with their current core. That timeframe just happens to match up perfectly with Tortorella's shelf life as a coach. Mike Gillis could go with a safer option, but consider what safe did to the New York Rangers. Then, consider what rejecting safe did to the Tampa Bay Lightning.