It was no longer a question of "if," but rather a question of "when," the Canucks would fire head coach John Tortorella. On Thursday morning, the team announced the inevitable that Tortorella has been relieved of his coaching duties. Also heading out the door with Torts is assistant coach Mike Sullivan.
The news comes as no surprise to fans, many who were surprised he even made it a full season with the team. Personally, I'm not a fan of firing a coach in the middle of a season, no matter how bleak things have become. It just takes a bad situation and makes it worse, in my opinion. Normally, I'm a fan of giving a coach at least a couple seasons to fully adjust to a new team and the playing style that works best. In this case however, it was clear that Tortorella was just never going to be the right fit for this franchise. Had he stayed on, things would have just gone from bad to worse. The Canucks had their worst finish since the 1998-99 season, and it became more and more clear as the year went on that Tortorella was only going to last one season here.
Under Tortorella, the Canucks went 36-35-11, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Vancouver's 83 points this year are the lowest since the 1999-2000 season when the Canucks won just 30 games.
Tortorella's time in Vancouver was the shortest by a non-interim coach since Bill LaForge, who coached the Canucks for just 20 games in 1984. Tortorella is the fourth coach in franchise history to last less than 100 games with the team.
In a statement issued by Canucks' President Trevor Linden, the decision was "an important change in the direction of our team." Linden went on to say that the General Manager search is well underway, and the team's search for a new head coach will begin immediately.
Linden also wrote a message to season ticket holders, saying that this was a fresh start for the team.
This is a step in the right direction for the Canucks. Just about everything that could go wrong this year did go wrong. The low point of Tortorella's brief stint in Vancouver was on January 18 when, after a line brawl to start the game against the Calgary Flames, Tortorella went over the edge when he tried to enter the Flames' dressing room. Tortorella was suspended six games for his actions. Sure, it was entertaining to watch at the time, but it proved to be an omen for a dark end to the season that no one would have predicted coming into this year. During his absence, the Canucks lost four of those six games. At the time of the incident, the Canucks held the first wild card spot. After? Well, we all knew what happened next.
Now, we put the ugly year behind us and move forward. It's kind of like breaking up with a girl after a failed relationship when you realize you have nothing in common. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but looking back, you wonder why your friends didn't try to stop you when you asked the girl out on a date. Linden now has a clean pallet to work with as the Canucks will hit the reset button and simultaneously search for a new GM and head coach. There will certainly be roster moves this offseason, but I think Linden should be able to keep the core group of contributors together and hopefully rebound next season with a guy behind the bench who will be a much better fit for the team. It had become clear that Tortorella's style just wasn't going to ever work with this team. He tried to change too much, and like we said last night, this was just a square peg in a round hole situation with Tortorella and the Canucks.
Last year, it took about a month between the firing of Alain Vigneault and the hiring of Tortorella. This year, the Canucks also have to worry about finding a new GM to take over as well, so we'll see how that plays a role into when Vancouver finds their next coach. Entering his first full season as President, Linden will certainly be extra careful when making that decision.