Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks

Torts: We’re losing, so I’m the idiot, AV’s winning, so he’s the smart guy

While not as hyped as John Tortorella’s return to the Garden back in November, tonight’s re-match against his former team definitely brings some intriguing story lines.

Since we last saw Torts and his Canucks playing the victim in Chris Kreider’s greatest revenge, they have struggled to gain traction and currently sit five points out of a playoff spot with just six games remaining.

And while it’s easy to blame Torts for Vancouver’s struggles, he’s had to deal with numerous injuries to key players as well as watching his GM deal not one, but both of the team’s top goaltenders leaving the embattled coach with a netminder (Eddie Lack) who hadn’t played a single second in the NHL before this season.

Having said that, Tortorella does deserve criticism for not adjusting his grinding, shot blocking system to fit his skilled personnel in Vancouver. Sound familiar?

The bottom line is wins and loses and Torts hasn’t gotten the job done, while his co-star in the NHL’s version of “Freaky Friday,” Alain Vigneault, has. Here’s the Canucks head man on the comparisons (via Newsday)…

“As far as the records are concerned? I know that comes up. What is fair? You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing that happened with Alain and I, and I get that. We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot, and he’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy, and rightfully so.”

Oh, c’mon Torts, you’re not the idiot for losing games, you’re the idiot for doing this…

While most of you might expect Tortorella’s troops to play with a great sense of urgency tonight with their playoff lives literally on the line, the team’s embarrassingly passive effort against Anaheim on Saturday night reeks of a team who’s tuned out their coach, not one fighting and clawing for a spot in the postseason.

 …i will always be a fan of Tortorella. I love his passion and intensity, while his ability to motivate a team to play the “right way” is why he was able to take an average Rangers team and guide them to the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the same things that make him such an effective coach are also his downfall as he doesn’t know when or how to turn it off. And if he doesn’t change soon, his stubbornness will be the reason he’s out of coaching for good in the very near future. Tortorella is at his absolute worst when things begin spiraling out of control. Instead of being a calming influence on the team, he more often than not throws gasoline on the fire by publicly calling out players or jumbling line combinations until his players’ heads are spinning. When things are going well, Tortorella’s act is tolerated by the players, but, as Sather said, that kind of in-your-face style has a shelf life and a very short one when the team is losing.

…which is why AV’s calm demeanor was the perfect antidote for the Rangers early season woes. While we all questioned the new head man’s heart as he seemingly sat by watching his team’s season go down the toilet without a single post game tirade or in-game player benching, what his players witnessed was a patient coach stoic in nature and unflappable in the face of adversity. Those are the traits you want from a coach when things get tough. You want a coach willing to ride out the storm, not one making his players walk the plank at the first sign of trouble. If Tortorella was behind the bench during those first few months, I have serious questions whether the Rangers would have ever been able to right the ship and get to where they are today.

Kevin

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