This is the final installment of my summer series on what players and coaches have major storylines for the upcoming 2013-14 NHL season. Next week, I’ll start focusing on fantasy hockey and the top games of the first half of the season. If you like (or don’t like) what you see, please leave comments of follow me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
It’s not just players in new places or ones that are looking to bounce back from bad years that have something to prove. There are also a few coaches that want to prove something. Especially, new Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella.
Tortorella has been regarded as one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League and has a Stanley Cup ring after winning in 2004 over the Calgary Flames . However, his style is one that eventually wears out his welcome due to his coaching style. Tortorella plays a defensive style that relies on his players to get down and block shots. (New York Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi led the league in blocked shots.) He’s also a very in-your-face coach that demands 100 percent effort from his players. (See the various benchings of star players throughout his time Tampa Bay and New York.)
Tortorella and the Rangers didclinch the top spot in the East in 2012, but were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in the conference finals. The Broadway Blueshirts had tremendous expectations for the 2013 season, but the team fell flat and was eliminated in five games by the Boston Bruins. (It didn’t help that guys like Brad Richards could not be as a big of a contributor as he was in 2012.) The lack of scoring punch (especially the lackluster Rangers power play) was one of the reasons for New York’s downfall.
There was plenty of speculation on whether or not certain players (like Richards) or Tortorella would return for the 2013-14 season. However, the hammer dropped and Tortorella was fired. He was a coach that made the Rangers a consistent threat to do damage in the playoffs, but his style according to some wore thin. (General Manaer Glenn Sather said that Tortorella’s style forced a change in coaches to Alain Vigneualt.) Torts has such an abrasive style that he got his own TSN SportsCentre (yes, that’s the correct spelling) Top 10 of his sound bites.
It didn’t take long for rumors to swirl that he was going to Dallas and Vancouver as the new head coach. Tortorella eventually was signed to coaching the Canucks, and speculation immediately started on how he would coach the team. How would his style be received by certain players that are not known for their defensive grit, toughness and checking prowess. (When I first heard the news, I immediately imagined what the conversation would be like when Tortorella asked the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, to block a shot.) There are some players that are excited about the coaching change, including Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo and the rest of the core players on the team. (Including the Sedins.)
Some say it’s going to take time for Tortorella to change his image, but he said that he’s looking to change the "lunatic" image that he earned. There is no doubt that he will change the Canucks, but the question is how much will he change the team? He’s already stated that the Sedin twins will kill penalties and be more involved defensively. He will expect players to block shots when needed, but the Canucks also have the skill players to dominate puck possession like the Tampa Bay Lightning did when he was in charge. He does expect Kesler to play a role like Ryan Callahan did when Tortorella was coaching the Rangers.
So what will be the final result for the Canucks? Some think that the organization is on the verge of a rebuild and the window to realize the lofty expectations of Vancouver fans. Tortorella is going to have to deal with the remnants of the Luongo fiasco and will be in the new Pacific division. This has two ways of going if you ask me. It’s either going to be a raging success or a colossal failure. Whatever the case, it’s going to be an interesting season in the Pacific Northwest.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.