John Tortorella to Canucks Report: Winners in Vancouver-NY Coaching Swap

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJune 23, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 16:  John Tortorella of the New York Rangers coaches against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 16, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In an interesting turn of events, the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks may swap coaches in a move that should pay dividends for both teams. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and ESPN reported that Tortorella is on the verge of being hired.

On the surface, it looks like the Rangers would gain more from the hiring of Alain Vigneault than the Canucks would from the hiring of John Tortorella, but both teams will ultimately be OK.

Tortorella to Canucks Makes Sense For Short Term Stay

Make no mistake: John Tortorella is a very good coach. Demanding? Yes. Hardheaded at times? Yes. However, he has a system that works for a certain amount of time, and he would be stepping behind the bench of a Canucks team that has its window closing.

In most situations, Tortorella is a coach who can wear out his welcome quicker than a New York minute, but in this situation, he is almost perfect for a coach of his caliber. The Sedins are not getting any younger, and the hiring of Tortorella in a short dose could be what the team needs to get over the hump.

The Canucks have tried to get tougher and more physical since being defeated in the Stanley Cup Final by the Bruins, and a Boston terrier like Tortorella would inject some serious attitude and “jam."

Tortorella is known for his love of shot blocking, for his appreciation of two-way players and for playing “the right way.” In Vancouver, Torts would be able to implement that, but he would also learn from the mistakes he made in New York. 

His time with the Rangers came to an abrupt end because the players tuned him out and they didn’t want to play the taxing style that Tortorella employs.

He would be successful in Vancouver because key members of the Canucks want to play for him. That, plus a minor fusion of his two coaching styles, would help him be successful.

In Tampa Bay, Tortorella liked to use the phrase “safe is death” to describe the openness of the Lightning’s offensive play, and the Canucks could be successful if Tortorella uses a hybrid of his two philosophies. Initially, it would be easy for Tortorella to add some rigidness to the Canucks because he has players that he can relate to.

Ryan Kesler will become his new Ryan Callahan, Dan Hamhuis is a defenseman like Dan Girardi. Various other players will find their niche. A player like Zack Kassian is a prototypical Tortorella guy, and he could thrive with Tortorella at the helm.

Under Vigneault, the Canucks were a very good offensive team, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. Tortorella can be a good coach for them because he employs a style that can be successful in the postseason.  

The Canucks’ style of play wouldn't change drastically under Tortorella. The current makeup of the roster has more skill than grit, so Tortorella would use what he has at his disposal.

There will be more emphasis on two-way play and defense, but I don’t think there will be a mandate for the Sedins to get down on all fours and block shot after shot. After a first-round sweep, the Canucks needed a culture shock. In Vancouver, there is more scrutiny than New York, and a guy like Tortorella can be a magnet for criticism when the going gets tough. 

His brashness with the media is a successful tactic because he gets scribes and media members jawing about his rudeness instead of his team’s down play. Given the Canucks’ history as of late in the playoffs, having a guy like Torts as a bulletproof vest for major criticism could prove to be very useful.

If the Canucks maintain their current style of play but focus a bit more on defense and physicality, they have the potential to be a monster.

Clearly Tortorella knows how to get the best out of his players, but this season, the message just wore out. Vancouver is further along in age than the Rangers were, and for that reason, he should be a good fit.

Vigneault Is A Breath of Fresh Air for Rangers

When the Rangers’ 35th coach was introduced at Radio City Music Hall on Friday, he addressed the media candidly and was jovial. He even joked and laughed. Immediately, there was a noticeably stark contrast between him and his predecessor, and that is what the team needs.

The Rangers are at the point where they are ready to win the Stanley Cup. They have the goalie, they have a budding group of talented young defenders and they have a nice blend of forwards. 

They are a few depth players and a second-line winger away from being where they need to be, but the current roster may perform differently under Vigneault.

At his press conference the Rangers’ new bench boss said:

I believe your top skill players have to be given a little latitude. They have to understand the time when you have to play a little higher percentage, but they also have to be given the latitude to make something out of nothing.

The Rangers offense and power play hasn’t been the greatest over the past few years, but it should be. Rick Nash is an elite winger, Derek Stepan and Derrick Brassard are talented young centers and Chris Kreider is a prospect who has shown glimpses of brilliance. 

The Rangers arguably have one of the best goalies in the world, and if the team opens things up offensively, they might give up an extra goal or two on occasion. However, they would also be scoring more goals and there would be less pressure on Lundqvist to be perfect.

There has been no confirmation, but is could be assumed that Lundqvist is on board with Vigneault and that he will re-sign with the Rangers. Team brass wouldn’t have made a statement by signing Vigneault for the next five years if they weren’t confident that Lundqvist was behind him. 

The Rangers’ defense under Vigneault also should improve because they now have a ringing endorsement to join the rush and create offense. Under Tortorella, there was a lot of dump-and-chase hockey. Michael Del Zotto was one of the only defenders who would rush the puck up the ice with frequency, but given Vigneault’s comments, that will change.

Vigneault remarked:

If you've got room to make a play, make a play. If you've got space and time to carry the puck, carry the puck. If the other playing you tight, sometimes you have to make the high-percentage play and chip the puck in. 

From what has been said already, there is a sense that offense will become a bigger part of the Rangers’ game. They already have a plethora of two-way forwards who know how to play defense, and opening things up should allow them to become more complete players. 

Players like Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin and Kreider should especially interesting to watch under an offensive-minded coach like Vigneault.

In Conclusion

The 2013-14 season marks the 20th anniversary of the Rangers’ Stanley Cup season in which they defeated the Vancouver Canucks. While there are no guarantees that each team will make the 2014 Final, each coaching change should improve each team's chance of making it.

The Rangers wanted to add more offense, so they added Vigneault. The Canucks want to shake things up, so they may bring in Tortorella. Obviously things can change once the season starts, but each coach should fill a different niche for their perspective team.

There is only one guarantee, and that is that the Canucks’ postgame press conferences are now going to become must-see TV.


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