If you were to map a successful John Tortorella launch, it might look a lot like the Canucks first week of the season.
A 3-1 record with an uptempo, high-event approach Tortorella summed up this way:
“I don’t believe in counter-punching. I believe in inflicting.”
Oh yes, that quote will resonate in Vancouver.
So will the pair of gut-check, come-from-behind wins, as long as you don’t spend too much time patting down the rosters the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames have been rolling out. (Hint, you’d feel a lot of cold garbage.)
Three early wins against bad teams aren’t going to help the Canucks brass, which hired Tortorella at some risk, sleep at night. But it’s better than the alternative.
“It’s better than 1-3, where I think people would second-guess a lot of things,” Chris Higgins said. “But there’s a long way to go.”
Lose to San Jose Thursday, and make it nine straight losses to the Sharks, and the Canucks will be seen as a team still spinning its tires.
But there is at least evidence now the Canucks have overcome their first obstacle to this season. That was always going to be embracing a new coach who is nothing like the old one.
That hasn’t been a problem. The Sedins have been gushing about everything Tortorella, including his shot-blocking demands and continuous line-changing.
Players seem to believe there is a “Torts effect” that can push them when they’re losing.
Roberto Luongo put it this way on TSN: “Torts won’t let us quit.”
Some may take comments like this, and ones on the line-changing and the aggressive forecheck, which have been coming from Vancouver’s leadership, as swipes at Alain Vigneault. But I’m unconvinced that’s what’s going on here.
This is an aging core, with a closing window of opportunity to win, in need of something to believe in. For now, they believe in Tortorella.
It seems the coach who reportedly lost the locker-room in New York has been making it easy on them here to start. The guy with the hard-***, bully reputation has kept things positive more often than not to start his Canucks career.
“He really builds you up before games and in-between periods,” Jason Garrison said. “He’s a very good motivator.
“You get pumped up. He’s very good at it. It’s a lot of fun listening to him.”
Tortorella is Johnny Goodtimes? Players in the locker-room are having a lot of fun?
Yeah, didn’t see that coming.
What was predictable was Tortorella’s hands-on approach to in-game coaching. He has an incessant need to line-change.
“If you like playing together, you better show the coach,” Higgins said.
Tortorella will bury his fourth line, nightly. And he’ll ride his best players, hard.
He will use timeouts, and called one late in Tuesday’s win against the Devils during a power play to get the Sedins more ice time.
Tortorella has made good on his promise to promote players who are excelling. Mike Santorelli has worked his way from a bubble player to third-line centre, to where he is now, on the top line with the Sedins.
Alex Edler was having a good game Tuesday and ended up playing more than 11 minutes in the third.
The players seem convinced he’s had a significant role in both comeback wins.
“For sure he did,” Garrison said. “He’s come into the periods and told us what we’re doing wrong and told us what we need to do be better.
“It’s up to us to do that.
“He’s very easy to talk to and he gets his point across.
“Just don’t do anything to aggravate him.”
It wasn’t a given that a veteran team which has won a lot of regular games over the years would be accepting of the Tortorella way. But Kevin Bieksa said this team was hungry for it.
“You see a lot of times he’ll stop the practice and teach,” Bieksa said. “We’re taking it all in.
“There is pride in the room. But everyone has checked their egos. Everyone is willing to learn because everyone knows they can get better.
“When you have all of your top guys willing to be coached, it funnels down.”
Tortorella dismissed the notion he had any impact in the comeback wins against Calgary and New Jersey.
“I think coaches have too big a role in wins and in losses,” Tortorella said. “Coaches are just guidance counsellors.”
Sure. Tortorella is just a really expensive guidance counsellor.