John Tortorella, the controversial ex-coach of the Vancouver Canucks, spoke publicly this morning for the first time since he was fired last year.
Torts is in Tampa Bay to take part in Hockey Day in Tampa Bay this Sunday, and after listening to his interview with 620 WDAE Radio, it’s clear he’d love another chance to coach in the NHL.
Tortorella addressed his interactions with players and the media, and he even upped his hockey-coach SEO by saying he’s getting into analytics too. Yeah, he wants it bad.
On coaching the Canucks
Speaking about his time in Vancouver, Torts was quick to take the blame for what happened.
That group of players in Vancouver – I really enjoyed them. We had a great first half, but I don’t think I did the job for the team in the second half with our consistency, and I think thats what cost me my job. We couldn’t stop the losing streaks, we needed to win a couple of games in those areas. Quite honestly I deserved to get fired after that second half of the year.
It’s my job to push athletes to be the best they can be, sometimes to get to places they don’t even think they can get to. But I’m always going to listen to them too, and I tell you, as I sit here talking to you today, that’s what I miss most – being in the room, seeing what their personalities are, them coming back at me if they don’t like what they heard from me…
I think there’s a little bit of misperception (SIC), but there’s nothing I can do about that, but I tell you, I miss that part of it terribly – being in the locker room with teams.
Torts addressed his lowest point of the season – when he stormed the Calgary Flames dressing room last January to go after coach Bob Hartley during the first intermission.
Listen, I know I made my own bed in some of the things that happened – you’re talking to a guy who went down the hall after another coach last year, which was so so across the line, and so embarrasing to my organization and my team, but it’s the emotion.
You live and die by the sword a little bit there. I think I control myself more – I really worked at that last year in Vancouver. That was really one of the bad spots in my season when I did that.
Speaking with the media
And on his relationship with the media, which certainly changed somewhere between New York and Vancouver.
As far as dealing with the media, and trying to work with them, I’ve really worked at that because it’s almost what was defining me as a coach. I told the guys, and they’re a really good group of (media) guys out there in Vancouver too, I want to work with you. I don’t want this to be something we’re always talking about. I thought that worked really well as far as our relationship.
So yeah, you’re ever evolving, and I’m doing it now as I sit here and watch other coaches. I watch their philosophies – you’re always trying to learn. Listen I’ve made mistakes along the way and I’ll make more if I have an opportunity to coach again. You’re always trying to learn and be better, and that’s the way I look at it.
Learning about analytics
How badly does Torts want to get back into hockey? This is how he answered when asked how he’s using his time off from coaching.
It gives me a chance to step back and watch a lot of games, and one thing I’ve jumped into with all this new talk about analytics – myself and Mike Sullivan (his assistant coach in Vancouver) are analyzing every goal scored in last year’s season, and trying to figure out an analytics package that will help – not just with what’s out there – there’s a lot of information, but trying to do our own little thing.
Interestingly, his answers regarding analytics were revealing on how things worked in Vancouver. He was asked about ‘gut feeling’ and how much a coach should use analytics.
When I was with my staff (in Vancouver) last year, we had a really good analytics package. We had a guy, Jonathan Wall, out in Vancouver and we had some really good stuff analytics-wise. But this is not baseball.
You have to be very careful not to let it control you in analyzing your players, analyzing your team – I think it helps in a lot of areas to maybe affirm some things or to look at some other areas you need to improve, but if you lose your stomach in the National Hockey League or the game of hockey, I just don’t know if that’s the proper way of going about it.
But listen to me, I’m without a job right now, so who am I? But that’s the way I feel about it, and I feel strongly about it. You can’t lose your stomach as you go through this, because this is a different type of game. It’s just so creative you don’t want to get locked in on numbers all the time.
To me, the best analytic is scoring chances for and against – when you analyze those the next day, as far as what your team did in those areas, because you learn a lot all the areas of the game when you look at those scoring chances, for and against.
How would the players feel?
All this makes you wonder if NHL fans might actually be blessed enough (from an entertainment perspective) to have Tortorella back as a coach some day. If any team does seriously consider him, they’ll likely do their due diligence and talk to his former players.
This week the Montreal Gazette wrote a feature on former-Canuck-now-Canadien Dale Weise. Clearly not a fan of Torts, Weise told the story of how he was informed he was traded.
“I went into the dressing room, Tortorella was just standing there alone. He says, ‘There’s a trade in the works, I can’t tell you where to yet, there could be a few teams bidding right now. Get undressed.’
“Then he just walked out of the room. Didn’t say goodbye, didn’t say good luck, nothing. That was it.”
But who knows what the overwhelming feelings on him are. When the Sedins are asked about Tortorella’s time in Vancouver, they’re quick to talk about what a great coach he was. They’ve said he’s a “great man” and a good teacher. (Let’s ignore that the Sedins wouldn’t even be critical of a guy who called them “odd as shit”)
With all that to digest, I’ll leave you with this thought.
Want to get noticed in Las Vegas, Gary Bettman? I know just the guy…
Feature Image: nhl.com