If Mike Gillis has a problem with John Tortorella’s coaching style, that’s news to Vancouver’s head coach.
“Fantastic,” Tortorella said on Friday, describing his working relationship with Gillis, Vancouver’s general manager. “As I’ve said, I think he’s an interesting guy because he… the thing I love about him, and I’ve said it probably half-a-dozen times, he’s looking to turn over any rock to try to find an edge to help this team win.
“Managers do that. And, he does it in a different way that, he’s searching everywhere. I respect that about him. The Aquilini’s, they’ll spend the money, and we have a general manager here that’s trying any which way that he can to try to help us win. That’s a good thing.”
On Thursday, Gillis spoke about his team’s struggles this season in an interview on Vancouver radio station, the Team 1040. Gillis said the team had gotten away from the fast-paced, up-tempo transition style of game that had made Vancouver one of the league’s best teams from 2008 to 2012.
After the interview, many considered that to be a dig at Vancouver’s head coach, who was hired last offseason and is known for his defence-first, shot-blocking style.
“I heard about the, I guess it was a radio show? I’m not going to have any comment on that. That’s a conversation that should be held internally, and I’ll go about my business.”
Tortorella started off Fridays’ press conference – which mostly dealt with Gillis’s interview yesterday morning, with Dave Pratt and Bro Jake, two longtime Vancouver on-air personalities – a little cagey, refusing to discuss the team’s style of play, before opening up a little more as the media session went on.
“I think our team knows how we want to play,” he said. “I think they showed it the first, in 40 or so games… the responsibility that was lost was me, in not keeping my foot on the pedal.
“I had to make an adjustment when we were banged up,” he continued. “The responsibility falls on me and not getting back quick enough to the style that I think we should play.
“That’s a huge mistake by me, and I think we’ve kind of corralled it, a little too late, though.”
The Canucks have played better lately, although it would be a stretch to believe Tortorella’s comments that the team has “corralled” their sloppy play.
After winning three straight games in March against Nashville, Buffalo, and Minnesota, the Canucks have since lost three straight, to Colorado, Anaheim, and then the New York Rangers.
Much of the pundits’ focus this season has been on Vancouver’s new style of play under Tortorella, especially the minutes the coach gave his premier players – Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin, and Daniel Sedin – early in the season.
All three have missed time due to injuries this season, along with Chris Tanev, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, and Mike Santorelli.
“It depends on depth in your lineup,” Tortorella said of dealing with those mounting/mounted injuries.
“There were some games when I played Daniel and Henrik. Kes is a different animal, he just thrives on it. But there were some games Daniel and Henrik played 24 minutes.
“Do I want to do that? No. But in certain games I did it.”
Tortorella then said he believes those players’ minutes had nothing to do with their injuries.
Prior to coming to Vancouver, Tortorella head coached in both Tampa Bay and New York, with the Rangers.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. Twice, he coached teams that placed first in the Eastern Conference during the regular season – in Manhattan in 2012, and in Tampa in ’04.
But he also had difficult seasons with each club, including a heartbreaking conclusion to his 2010 season, when the Rangers missed out on the playoffs with a shootout loss on their last game of the season to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Fair to say his struggles in Vancouver this season are nothing new, although they’re certainly unfamiliar to Canucks fans in the Gillis era.
“This is part of my world,” Tortorella said Friday. “This is party of my job, to be able to handle these situations.
“I know people are upset. I know people above me are upset. I know the players are upset. I’m upset, the coaches are upset. But we need ot just stay within it and keep on trying to improve.
“I can’t control what you guys are saying. I can’t coach differently becuse of what you guys are saying, or what other people are saying. I’ve been in this world… I’ve been through this so many times… it’s about trying to do it the right way, and I still think I’m doing that.
“I don’t know if you know how I do things. We’ll sit in a roundtable and have a burger and a drink and I’ll test you guys and see where it is, as far as how you think we play.”
Tickets for the roundtable are not yet on sale.