Sunday, December 21st, 2014

On Tortorella (So Far)

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I can’t really complain too much about anything John Tortorella has done to date. I like half his system – a more aggressive forecheck – and don’t like the other half – a more passive, collapse to the net strategy on defense. I vote aggressive all over the ice.

I hope he thinks the defensive strategy is better because the result is to limit high percentage shots. I hope he sees shot blocks as an unavoidable consequence of the strategy and not as an end in themselves. I suspect that is so, although I can’t believe that by his comments on the subject. (Yes, he expects the Sedins to be diving in front of shots, he said, because when they do it makes everybody on the bench feel “ten feet tall”. Everybody – including me – loves heart and grit in players, but I believe winners win because they are talented, and not because they are inspired by the captain taking one for the team.)

The experiment using the Sedins on the PK – Vancouver is yet to give up a power play goal and they’ve scored twice shorthanded.

I don’t even think Tortorella can be criticised for anything he’s said to the media. He wasn’t exactly a model of decorum on the CBC on Saturday night but he was responding to an inane Glenn Healy comment and the only reason the issue emerged was because a Vancouver reporter baited the coach with it. I’m afraid that a lazy hockey media is going to find it easy to generate stupid stories this way.

My favourite Tortorella moment so far was when he was asked about the Sedins after the Edmonton game. He said the all the usual things, but I thought I heard a touch of surprise in his voice. I heard “I knew they were good, but they are really, really good.” (Pass it to Bulis reminds us how good with this post.)

The only real gripe I have with any of his decisions was when he elevated Zack Kassian to the first line. First, I think players should earn that type of promotion. Second, I think Alex Burrows earned that job and he shouldn’t lose it on a whim. (I also think Burrows is the best winger the Sedins have ever had. He helps them. Will Kassian?)

Anyway, so far so good with the new coach. On the other hand, I’ve always held that leadership is a foul weather occupation. It’s easy to be in charge of the team when the Sedins are going and the team wins three games in four to start the season. We are going to see Tortorella under more trying circumstances and we’ll learn a lot more about him.

Until then he’s been okay in my books.

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