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article imageJohn Tortorella won't, and shouldn't, be fired by Trevor Linden

By Marcus Hondro     Apr 11, 2014 in Sports
The prospects of a second season behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks don't look good for John Tortorella. But this pundit is of the opinion that he'll be back. There are a variety of reasons, number one of which is he's a good coach.
Mind you, after hearing the following words from owner Francesco Aquilini it almost seems like a done deal that the Canucks will eat the remaining 4 years of Tortorella's contract and jettison him at the end of the season. See if you don't agree that it's pretty condemning stuff: "Mike (Gillis) hired Tortorella and I supported that decision. I have to take responsibility for that. That's why we have a change in direction."
Yeah, big time condemning. It's a statement that implies what is wrong with the Canucks season is the coach and that the now former GM Mike Gillis was fired, at least in part, and it seems in large part, for hiring the coach. Ouch!
But the reality is that it's not Aquilini's decision and the Canucks new president of hockey ops, Trevor Linden, isn't a 'yes' man, and nor is he one to make decisions without consulting and without due process, and without applying smart hockey logic to it all.
Here are some of the things Linden will look at:
- In the first half of the season the Canucks scored at a rate of 2.65 goals per game. The second half to date? A meager 1.95. Did Tortorella alter his coaching strategy for the second half? Did the players suddenly tune him out, despite, after 42 games, being comfortably in a playoff position?
Very unlikely. What happened was injuries. An unprecedented run of injuries, in particular to key players. It's been well-documented here and elsewhere, but when you have guys in and out of the line-up, when you have games where 2 and 3 of your key offensive players are out, it behooves the coaching staff to alter game plans accordingly. They won't make the excuse but we can. Injuries decimated their offense. Same coach both halves of the season but markedly different line-up.
- With the exception of that disastrous night against Calgary, Torts behaved this season and left the ranting to the media. Further, with the exception of not playing Roberto Luongo in the Heritage Classic, he seems to have gotten on well with his team. The notion that they tuned him out isn't backed up by anything at all, indeed captain Henrik Sedin has backed the coaching staff repeatedly, as other players have.
- He's a guy that will surely be open to revisiting the decision to give top players so much ice-time. The Sedins, as Linden pointed out yesterday, wanted to kill penalties. And while overplaying Daniel, Henrik, Ryan Kesler and others might have contributed to injury, even to poor play, how he doles out ice-time is something that Tortorella is capable of re-examining, of learning from. Incidentally, Tortorella has proven himself to be an excellent coach of young players, it's a strong suit for him, and there are a ton of young players poised to join the big club.
Tortorella and new Canucks GM
The bottom line is that Linden is not going to fire Tortorella, he does not have the reasons. Had the first half of the season been as bad, or almost as bad, as the second then Tortorella would be gone. But not now. And It won't have to do with the $8 million left on the contract, either (though some reports have it there's a buy-out clause that would see Aquilini pay less). It will have to do with hockey.
Obviously, whoever the new GM is will make the decision on Tortorella and the rest of the coaching staff. And consider this: what if Linden fires Tortorella and then a week later hires a GM who is a real Tortorella guy? "Oh, really, well, we just fired him," Linden would have to say. "Sorry."
Tortorella will survive, at least until the new GM is found. Will the coach survive the that, though? Impossible to say without knowing who that GM will be, but the method of approaching the same scenario with Alain Vigneault that Mike Gillis took makes sense: huddle with your coach, find out if there's common ground, make a decision. Gillis of course kept Vigneault and the two took the Canucks to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.
Enough said.
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