Well that certainly didn’t take long. One of the biggest question marks about the Vancouver Canucks‘ hiring of defensive-minded coach John Tortorella took one whole game to pop it’s head up.
Tortorella, in his first season with Vancouver after being fired from the New York Rangers last summer, is a big-time preacher of shot-blocking. He expects every one of his players to be willing to sacrifice their bodies at all times. Many wondered if this strategy would take hold with the Canucks. Under former coach Alain Vigneault, the team was much more offensively focused. In terms of grit, there didn’t seem to be a ton on the team, especially shown during their Stanley Cup Finals series with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Regardless of all the reasons it might not have worked, Tortorella was confident, even claiming he expected stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin to block shots as well. Injuries happen all the time, so if someone gets hurt the team will deal with it.
Time to deal with an injury, all thanks to a blocked shot.
In the team’s regular season opener against the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks found themselves on a 5-on-3 penalty kill when forward Alex Burrows dove to block a slap shot. He managed to play out the game, but missed practice during the weekend, and was even spotted with a cast on his foot.
Though no elaboration has been given on the nature of the injury, Tortorella claims Burrows could be out a few weeks. Thus commenced the media’s feasting on Tortorella’s strategies and the injury risk it puts on his players.
“I know you’re probably going to ask about 15 questions about shot-blocking,” Tortorella said in front of reporters over the weekend. “Alex Burrows made the right play. If he doesn’t make that play, he’d probably never kill a 5-on-3 here again. So don’t turn it into that. It was the right play to be made. Injuries happen in a lot of different ways. We’ll continue to try to play defense — not just shot block.”
This was a ticking time bomb of a situation. Any time a coach brings a new, albeit questionable, strategy to a team, the media begins waiting for the first sign of trouble. With Vancouver, it just so happened to occur one game into the season. The team also saw another player, Jordan Schroeder, suffer a hairline fracture during the preseason as a result of a blocked shot as well. When its a player coming into his second year in the NHL, like Schroeder, the media is a little on edge. When its a top six forward — Burrows — they’re searching for the panic button.
Tortorella can expect this kind of reaction any time someone goes down after blocking a shot. The mood at the moment seems very “I told you so” from local reporters. Couple that with the oh-so-caring way Tortorella deals with the media, and we could be seeing the opening stages of an eruption in British Columbia.
Even worse; imagine what would happen if a Sedin gets hurt on a block.