The Vancouver Canucks will officially unveil John Tortorella as their new head coach on Tuesday morning, at a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. PST. (Video is available from the Canucks on YouTube just below.)
Tortorella was recently fired from the New York Rangers after they lost in five games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Rangers have hired just-fired former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who Tortorella will replace in VanCity and who led the Canucks to six postseasons in seven years, including a Stanley Cup Final trip in 2011.
A coach known for a cracking wit and fiery temper, Tortorella was all smiles and reflection on Tuesday morning, admitting he has a lot to learn about his new team and his new cast of players.
“I’m dealing with an older team here (in Vancouver), as I look at the roster, I think I need to respect the older players and some of the processes they’ve gone through and make adjustments with myself as far as how I handle them,” he told Canucks.com writer Derek Jory.
“Right now I’m trying to figure out who the Vancouver Canucks are… I know they’ve been successful, but they’ve got to that point and it’s just that next step they need to take. What’s needed there? I’m a big believer in ‘what is your identity’ and creating an identity, that’s what we’re going to look to. I think there’s some sort of identity there, but when a new coaching staff comes in, you have to put your stamp on that, too.”
While known for his success behind the bench – Tortorella has a Stanley Cup from 2004, an Olympic silver medal from 2010, and guided the New York Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 – Tortorella perhaps more known for a series of viral videos that we’ve all seen once, twice, or more than thrice.
He’s a man of contradictions, for better or worse.
He’s had an often explosive relationship with the media, but he’s also been a part of it.
He’s been knocked for how he treated or soured with some of his superstars in New York – Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist and Brad Richards, recently – but he also worked wonders for now-established Rangers like Brian Boyle, captain Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal.
What will Tortorella do with Swedish superstars Henrik and Daniel Sedin, or Ryan Kesler? How will he handle a offensive workhorse like Alex Burrows? What will he do with underwhelming forwards Derek Roy, Mason Raymond, David Booth, and Chris Higgins? Will he make Keith Ballard a part of the team, and how will he handle the contrasting play and personality of Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler on one blueline? Will he give a chance to youngsters like Frankie Corrado and Nicklas Jensen, and can he get Zack Kassian to explode for a full season?
And, of course, what will become of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider?
In Vancouver, the Canucks are hoping to keep their championship window open, a situation not unlike the one Torts comes from, although every market is always a different animal – especially when you cross an entire content and one big border.
“I’ve been very fortunate in the cities I’ve coached in, but really in the back of my mind, I was hoping someday I’d get a chance to coach in Canada,” he told Canucks.com. “This is an adventure and it’s an honour and a privilege and I couldn’t be happier as far as where I’m at at this stage of my career and to have an opportunity to do this in the province of BC with all the people that are glued into this team. It’ll be a tremendous challenge, but I couldn’t be happier.”