The John Tortorella era has started off rocky for the Vancouver Canucks. Based on GM Mike Gillis’ latest comments, though, it might not last much longer.
Speaking with Team 1040 radio in Vancouver this morning, Gillis made some statements that don’t exactly sound like an endorsement of Tortorella. If anything, he sounds like he may be saying the club made a mistake in hiring the fiery coach in the first place.
“I want us to play up-beat, puck possession, move-the-puck quickly, force teams into mistakes, high-transition game. I think we have the personnel to do it. If we don’t have the personnel to do it, they’ll be changed,” Gillis said. “I’m tired of chasing a moving target. We’re going to get back to the fundamentals and principles that I believe in, and that’s how we’re going to play.”
“If people don’t want to comply – we did this six years ago, we made hard choices – those hard choices are going to come again if we don’t see people that get on the same page.”
As you can see, there isn’t a ton of subtlety here. It’s highly unlikely the “people” he’s talking about is in reference to Canucks players. Mainly because the up-beat, high-transition game he’s bringing up is essentially the exact opposite style of Tortorella’s coaching strategy, which usually focuses on slowing the game down and packing players into the defensive zone. If you’d like to see the type of offense Gillis is looking for, just take a peek at what former coach Alain Vigneault is doing with the New York Rangers.
Is Gillis saying ownership made the wrong call, not so much in firing Vigneault, but in hiring Tortorella in to begin with? More importantly, are these comments pretty much the nail in the coffin for Tortorella’s time in Vancouver?
Gillis has made it known what type of hockey team he prefers to see. Likewise, Tortorella has been coaching in the NHL since 2000, and his strategy is nothing like what Gillis is talking about. Canucks ownership wanted to try a style different than the one Gillis has been championing, and then it failed. Now, Gillis wants to go back to the original strategy his bosses steered away from. He’s doing so, it appears, by throwing Tortorella under the bus.
It’s important to note, however, there is doubt as to whether or not Gillis will even be around to see this change take place. You’ve got a GM openly admitting that the decision to switch playing styles was a failure. From ownership’s perspective, you’re hearing your GM publically call out your hiring decision just one year in. Whether or not Gillis is right, there aren’t a ton of bosses who like to hear their decisions openly questioned by someone they’re paying. There have already been rumors about Gillis’ potential firing, and a personal critique of the most recent coaching hire probably won’t do anything to dispel those rumblings.
The only thing we do know is a thoroughly disappointing season in Vancouver is about to wrap up. Gillis’ comments are just another episode in a long and winding campaign that Canucks faithful have had to endure all year. They also indicate that change is coming, whether Gillis is there to see it or not.